All in Off-Broadway

REVIEW: The Pond Theatre Company presents “The Naturalists”

The Pond Theatre Company, dedicated to world premieres of plays by Irish and British writers, presents “The Naturalists” anew play by Irish playwright Jaki McCarrick.  Even though the pace and tone of the piece varies widely from act one to act two, you won’t find a better acted suite of scenes on any New York stage than the ones here.  The Pond is a new theatre company worth keeping your eyes on.

REVIEW: “The Gospel at Colonus” in Central Park

The Public Theater and the Onassis Foundation USA present a six performance concert of “The Gospel at Colonus” in Central Park; this gospel-infused re-telling of Sophocles’ “Oedipus at Colonus” is set at a black Pentecostal service and delivered as a sermon.  The concept is genius, the storytelling muddled, and the music a little labored. Nevertheless, it is an experience to be remembered.

REVIEW: Wonder of Wonders! Miracle of Miracles! “Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish”

National Yiddish Theatre Folksbeine’s “Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish” breathes fresh life into a treasured property from the golden age of musical comedy, forcing audiences to interact anew with what is now one of the most well-known and performed musicals of all time, and providing, in return, a host of vital performances and resonant insights.  It is, in short, a revelation.  See it, or regret it.

REVIEW: The Mint Theater Company resurrects Lillian Hellman’s “Days to Come”

The Mint Theater Company resurrects Lillian Hellman’s long-forgotten 1936 play “Days to Come”, which ambitiously—and quite successfully—dramatizes long-simmering personal and social grievances exploding against a backdrop of labor strife in a small Ohio town. Exciting and refreshing, a play easily cast as a period piece is most surprising for how it is not. 

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.