News & Reviews from New York

June 25th, 2004

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A note: You may wonder why all my recent reviews are getting four stars, including this next one. Is all New York theatre that good? No. Some of it is dreadful, but I'm not going to knock some little off-off Broadway group that is trying hard to make it, so I'm not printing reviews of the small awful ones. If it's on Broadway at ninety dollars a ticket andit's bad, I'll tell you about it.

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Second Stage Theatre, gives us two extraordinary comedians, Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney, in a variety of sketches with top level comedy writing and brilliant performance - the kind that can only be achieved by many years of working in comedy and
performing together. They each play a wide diversity of characters, accents, attitudes, ages, ethnicities, all with complete conviction, and the jokes come fast and furious-- and none of them miss. This show is humor developed to its highest level played by two masters, and many of its characters, including Kathy as a drunken old cowboy in a bar flirting with a tipsy woman, will stick with you and bring a smile days later. This is rare, superb, classic sketch comedy at its peak. They don't make better.

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


June 18th, 2004

In THE TWO AND ONLY, Jay Johnson's amazing show, you not only get the man who is probably the best ventriloquist in the country in a marvelous display of technique and innovation (including a talking pad), but he sprinkles in the history of Ventriloquism, his personal odyssey, and he is a gentle, bright comedian who communicates a warm humorous glow to the show as well as a moving ending with powerful emotions. His many puppet personas are each distinct in voice, action and tone as they actively challenge him, and Beowulf Borritt's set and Clifton Taylor's splendid lighting complete this exciting, entertaining show
directed by Murphy Cross and Paul Kreppel wit perfect timing.

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


June 11th, 2004

Though they are master technicians at acrobatics and breath-taking at trapeze (they rival Cirque du Soleil), THE WAU WAU SISTERS (Tanya Gagne and Adrienne Truscott), now at Ars Nova on West 55th St. through June 26th, are also brilliant satirists and hilarious comedians. In spectacular zany costumes by Alejo Vietti and imaginative set by Leiko Fuseya, as directed by Trip Cullman, the sisters are comedy acrobats, comedy musicians, comedy singers, comedy dancers, as they give us take-offs on Catholic school girls, country Western singers, dirty Punk musicians,
sleepy clowns, and the funniest, sexiest shower scene ever done. They satirize everything. Miss this one and you miss two of the most accomplished performers in New York (or anywhere): skills, humor, skills, advanced humor, skills, it's all marvelous, and at
twenty bucks, the greatest bargain in town. Tell everyone on your block. 212/868-4444,

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


June 2nd, 2004

SIGHT UNSEEN is now at the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway. What a pleasure it is to be in the presence of writing by a smart playwright. Donald Margulies' play about love, ambition, the twists and turns in the life of a popular artist, is clever, bright, incisive,
with an excellent cast, all perfectly timed and tuned by director Daniel Sullivan. Laura Linney has blossomed into one of the finest actors on the New York stage-- she seems to be the character she plays, with the subtle changes in her emotions delicately
shown with infinite depth, clarity and power. Ben Shenkman as the self-centered but insecure artist is an excellent foil for her as is Byron Jennings as her crusty (compromise) husband. And Ana Reeder as an interviewer with an attitude is just fine. Douglas W.
Schmidt's imaginative multi-set design, Pat Collins' lighting and Jess Goldstein's costumes complete the picture of this real theatrical pleasure. Your mind and emotions are fully engaged in Margulies' quite moving speculation and exploration of Art and Love.

***3/4 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and

MINIMUM WAGE, now at Dillon's on West 54th St., gives us a lively young a capella Doo Wop group as the zany, nerdy employees of a big burger chain. The audience goes along with the simple premise that they are part of an employee training session. Denizens of fast food establishments will especially enjoy the mostly juvenile silliness. The singing will entertain anyone-all five performers are excellent singers, and the very clever musical staging by director David G. Armstrong, keeps it jumping. The show, written by two of the performers, Jeff La Greca and Charlie La Greca with songs by them and Sean Altman, has a bit of
puppetry, a touch of Poe, some rap pyrotechnics, and a great solo sexy number by the only woman in the cast, Elena Meulener (the others are Paul Ashley and bass Brian DePetris). The group has found a perfect framework for their vocal harmonies. This is a fully realized, rich cabaret show with a first class, talented cast, and the more they sing the more they grow on you.

*** 1/4 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER


May 13th, 2004

BOMBAY DREAMS is a sort of "Cinderfella." It's a totally predictable, rather amusing, corny melodrama about a poor boy and his rise to Movie Star, with big splashes of color (set and costumes by Mark Thompson), and has the feel of Las Vegas as seen thru the eyes of a bad dinner theatre choreographer with dance movements all synchronized and all right on the beat.
In fact, choreographers this artless, without counterpoint or counter rhythm, should have their dance shoes removed and be drummed out of the movement business. The offenders are Anthony Van Laast and Farah Khan. It's all very old fashioned, with a monumental naivete in the love songs by A R Rahman
(music) and Don Black (lyrics), and in fact in the whole show (book by Meera Syal and Thomas Meehan). The leading man, Manu Nrayan has an appealing sweetness and many of the cast are good performers with pro singing voices, and as directed by Steven Pimlott they have an innocent approach to musical
performing that probably goes really well in the rural provinces of India. Actually, the show is so bad that it is fun, and an unsophisticated tourist would probably have a great time.

** 1/2 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and

TOOTH AND CLAW by Michael Hollinger gives us the dilemma of simple survival for people vs the survival of reptile species. It's Galapagos-the fishermen are poor, the turtles are endangered and should be saved (and don't forget the goats). It's a political
rebellion in which both sides are right. While I did enjoy the show, which is part of the Sloan Foundation Science and Tech Project, for me there is too much science and explanations of conservation in the play, obviously written by a scholar, and not enough Theatre, and while most of the information is interesting, the personal relationships seem secondary (with too much in Spanish, which I don't understand). The staging by director Dave P. Moore is alive and vital, set by Jennifer Varbalo is imaginative, and performances by Nick Ullett, Gloria Beigler and the entire cast are excellent, with the beautiful, spicy Flora Diaz boldly outstanding as the thread of humor throughout the play. She is a potential star, and her performance alone is worth the price of admission to this unusual production.

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


May 3rd, 2004

Tom Stoppard is one of the greatest wordsmiths ever, and his 1972 play JUMPERS, now on Broadway, is an early expression of his agility. It's a little razz-ma-tazz a lot of philosophical fol-de-rol and speculation on God, Man, moral philosophy and logic. Stoppard shows his glittering mind as it explores conundrums of reality and contradictions in perception. The ideas are splashed fast and furious, but often so fast that if we dwell for a moment to appreciate, the actor, Simon Russell Beale, as directed David Leveaux, has raced on to the next two dazzlers, and we miss
much. There is no time to savor the layers of meaning and fascinating ideas that Stoppard throws at us. Beale is a really good actor, but racing to the finish of pithy sentences in a British accent obscures too much of the text for an American audience- a friend of mine, the head of Communications at a major university in the New York area, saw JUMPERS the other day and
told me that he understood about twenty percent of what was said. The brilliant set by Vicki Mortimer gives us the best action in the show and Aidan Treays' choreography of an amateur acrobatic troupe (the "jumpers") is marvelous, as are the costumes by Nicky Gillibrand. Essie Davis, the female lead of the show, is truly a star. She is riveting- even when her clothes are on. When they are off, she's divine. And Nicky Henson as a suave antagonist is perfect. Now I want to read the play and relish Stoppard's brilliantly funny wordschticks.

** 1/2 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER,

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