News & Reviews from New York

February 26th, 2004

DROWNING CROW by Regina Taylor, now on Broadway, is a mess based on Chekhov's "The Seagull." Set on the Sea Islands, with a black cast, it's a good idea gone blooey. There are two things necessary in Theatre: to communicate and to entertain. Poor direction by Marion McClinton undercuts the simple communication of the content- jumping around while talking breaks our empathy with the characters, especially in the case of the very handsome Anthony Mackie playing a troubled writer, whose histrionic antics distance us from the content. Most of the acting in this production is performance, declaiming, a gesture for every word,
rather than human beings speaking. Mixed in with the play are some very engaging musical numbers and visualizations, like the illusion of swimmers in the sea, that entertain, and draw us in. But they are short, and seem to be from another play, and we are
soon back in the morass of dull (even when loud) rhetoric. Peter Francis James, as the Trigorin character, plays it real, and the show picks up, but the problem then is that Aunjanue Ellis's overacting as Hannah (Nina) glares in her scene with him. Even
the usually powerfully moving Alfre Woodard seems insincere, without real needs or deep feelings, only surface expulsions of words. Basically, throughout the play, we are spectators to the problems of these people rather than participants, which can be boring. The director should be drummed out of the Guild. The
playwright should be encouraged to keep trying.

* Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


February 16th, 2004

There is an extraordinary one woman show, Bridge & Tunnel, playing at 45 Bleeker St. (212/307-4100). Written and performed by Sarah Jones, she gives us a succession of immigrant characters, mostly living in Queens, whose lives and personnas are explored with amazing sensitivity and skill as she, with minimal
costume changes, switches from male to female, from old to young, and to accents from all over the world. Although there is a lot of humor in the piece, it is basically an exploration of the hearts of the characters, and, as directed by Tony Taccone, Ms.
Jones does it brilliantly. Bridge & Tunnel is funny, moving in parts, and it makes us acutely aware of the problems, conditions and joys of today's immigrant population. Catch it. It seems to have a cast of about ten, all of them engaging.

**** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER


February 7th, 2004

performed by Mark Stolzenberg, he quick changes into a variety of personalities. The best, most fully developed, most entertaining character, is his wonderful clown, in which he utilizes his circus
skills- balancing, juggling, eccentric dancing, riding a tall unicycle, and playing with audience members. His agility and lively antics delight the audience in this section of his show. Two other husbands stand out: a drunk blues musician who blows on the harmonica and a burglarizing Italian. Stolzenberg is an energetic, enjoyable performer with a strong physical presence. He'll be at The Palace of Variety, 125 W. 42nd St., 212/868-4444, February 12, 19, and 26.

Richmond Shepard--


January 19th, 2004

SAFETY IN NUMBERS, written and performed by the dazzling comedienne/actress Jan Rudd, takes place at group therapy sessions run by a cheerful Scottish moderator, and containing a succession of clearly-defined characters, each with her own voice, physicality, personna- all clear, all brilliantly done. Rudd's timing in her writing is as sparkling as her performance, and there are some moments that are quite moving in this basically comedic show as these emotionally battered women tell their tales. It
is not often that a reviewer encounters a towering talent like Ms. Rudd-- Lily Tomlin, Whoopee Goldberg, Agna Enters, Ruth Draper come to mind. She has two more shows at Where Eagles Dare- 347 W. 36th St.-- January 22nd at 8: PM and February 1st at 3:16 PM 212/207-2926.

**** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER,


January 16th, 2004

If you don't want to have a lot of fun, if you don't want to laugh and smile for two hours and walk out humming, don't go to LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. The clever old lyrics by Howard Ashman and lively tunes by Alan Menken tickle more that ever, and the sterling performances by the beautiful Kerry Butler, the always
vulnerable Hunter Foster, Rob Bartlett (as close as you can get to Zero) and the amazing, dazzling Douglas Sills, all make this the best Little Shop ever. Director Jerry Zaks, with costume designer William Ivey Long, and set by Scott Pask, give us a zany, totally amusing Broadway show. Go! You'll have a great time.

**** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

TABOO is closing. But it's a really good, completely entertaining show with some of the best songs in town, by Boy George- the ones that made him a star and others, and marvelous performances. But I guess Rock Freaks are not the cup of tea for visitors from Iowa. It's an unapologetically, unabashedly gay show, and it seems the tourists are not ready for it. But they
miss the great singing and acting of Euan Morton, Raul Exparza, Liz McCartney, Denise Summerford, the hilarious Jeffrey Carlson, and George O'Dowd (Boy George himself) and the rest of the Broadway level singers and dancers. The book by Charles Busch
forgets who the protagonist is, and wanders in Act Two, but it's still a show to see. Perhaps Rosie, who lost ten million on the production, will throw in another half million and reopen at a mid-size house. I think it could have a long run without the Broadway

*** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

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