All in Play

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: Young Jean Lee’s quietly enveloping “Straight White Men”

Young Jean Lee makes history as the first female Asian-American playwright with her quietly enveloping play “Straight White Men”; far from the raging jeremiad that many liberal theatregoers no doubt anticipate, this tightly directed and finely acted play is a smart, funny, and surprising look at questions of privilege and identity through the lens of America’s oldest and newest, and soon to be minority, group: straight white men.

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.

REVIEWS: “Pass Over” and “Sugar in Our Wounds”

Two new plays that trenchantly tackle experiences of African American men across the present and history of our country opened Off-Broadway last week.  Both “Pass Over” and “Sugar in Our Wounds” floored me for different reasons; though distinct in content and message, they are united in a common theme of black erasure.  This is a look at each, both of which I highly recommend.

REVIEW: Joshua Harmon’s “Skintight”

Joshua Harmon’s new play, “Skintight” at Roundabout Theatre Company, entertainingly surveys the ways in which our notions of beauty and age shape and shade all our relationships.  Idina Menzel makes a rare stage play appearance in a role tailor made for her talent, but this play offers little resolution, only more questions, and a steady stream of laughs—enjoyable, but largely forgettable.

REVIEW: “Everyone’s Fine with Virginia Woolf”—Martha’s Revenge!

Elevator Repair Service’s “Everyone’s Fine with Virginia Woolf” by Kate Scelsa is self-styled “fan fiction” parody response to Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, lovingly skewering the latter with a sometimes absurdist literary, dramaturgical, and feminist critique.  The ambition is admirable and the result mixed, though entertaining.

REVIEW: “Peace for Mary Frances”

“Peace for Mary Frances”, a new play by Lily Thorne, receives a world premiere production by The New Group starring Lois Smith as a fading matriarch of a very dysfunctional family, waiting to die in home hospice.  Hyper-realistic, brimming with both tedium and spasmodic explosions of family feuds, death isn’t always the most compelling experience to observe, but that turns out to be the point.

REVIEW: “The Beast in the Jungle”

Susan Stroman, John Kander, and David Thompson continue their thirty year collaboration with “The Beast in the Jungle”, a “dance play” inspired by Henry James’ 1903 novella.  The dancing and music is beautiful to watch and hear, but the piece is dramatically unfulfilling, its more cryptic source material diminished in the course of fleshing out, crystallizing, and modernizing the story.