News & Reviews from New York

October 29th, 2004

UNCLE JACQUES' SYMPHONY, now at the Soho Playhouse, gives us the chance to see a remarkable actor/writer, Dominic Hoffman, in a series of characterizations, male and female, masterfully capturing and communicating the essence of each in both performance and writing. He has the attitudes and physical moves
of an old jazz drummer, Jacques (and reminds me of both Lord Buckley and Lenny Bruce in wording and delivery); an agile, hip young man on a basketball court who knows how to approach women; a young Puerto Rican woman; a pompous, patrician sixty year old painter with a mid-Atlantic accent and a particular
vulnerability; an old black woman who is cooking for her family; a damaged boxer; and a marvelous portrayal of a working class white man at a black funeral giving a eulogy for a dead drug dealer. Each character is unique, deep, full, with a clearly differentiated life force. Hoffman's great talent and versatility is
rare-- don't miss UNCLE JACQUES' SYMPHONY.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


October 19th, 2004

Want to have a marvelous theatrical experience? The Actors
Company Theatre TACT) is without a doubt the best play-reading troupe in this town (or any other town that I've seen). Their staged readings of classics, script in hand (the scripts soon become invisible), with a hint at costuming, have the full dramatic
intensity of a fully-realized production performed by Broadway actors. Their most recent, Terence Rattigan's 1942 wartime British Airforce drama FLARE PATH, flawlessly directed by Simon Jones, is brought to full life by their splendid cast. Next on their
agenda is "The Firebugs" by Max Frisch-- November 20th thru 22nd. 212/645-8228, E:

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

Playwright Craig Lucas tries to dazzle us with footwork in his skewed mish-mash of a comedy, RECKLESS. Some of his writing is sparkling, with witty surprises, but ultimately it is the cast that
keeps the show alive and interesting. Mary-Louise Parker shines with an impeccable sense of comic timing as a wife whose husband confesses that he has taken out a contract on her life, a solid, strong, convincing Michael O'Keefe secures the center, and a quirky, charming Rosie Perez tickles us with whatever she says (or doesn't say). It's all just a fun piece of fluff with an anti-psychotherapy theme woven in-- more of a kooky vaudeville show than a play, well directed by Mark Brokaw and well performed by the entire cast, including Debra Monk. The set by Allen Moyer is quite clever, and lighting by Christopher Akerlind and costumes by Michael Krass aid and abet the proceedings quite pleasingly. Want to see a great play? This ain't it. Want to see a great comedienne? Parker's it.

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

You don't have to be Jewish to laugh at the nonsense in JEWTOPIA by Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson now at The Westside Theatre. Full of self-mockery and some very funny stereotypic observations, it's universal enough for anyone to laugh. There are more Jewish jokes per mile than three Jackie Masons. The two writers, who are the leads, are good comedians, and their
performances are topped by the hilarious, ridiculously funny Jackie Tobin in a bevy of absurd characters all played full-out vocally and physically with bravado, schtick and panache. And both Cheryl David and Gerry Vichi come thru in several roles with great conviction wound up a notch to comedy. I think JEWTOPIA's two
acts could be condensed into one, but it does work most of the time this way. Costumes by Cynthia Nordstrom enhance everything. Director John Tillinger gives us a sliver of the national population in a comedy for the whole pie of us.

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

EAT THE TASTE, the Monday night political satire at the Barrow Street Theatre, by the men who wrote "Urinetown," suggests that John Ashcroft, the Attorney General, really wants to be in Musical Theatre. It's a farce, including a great fight scene choreographed by David Brimmer, and is full of showbusiness in-jokes and FBI ridiculousness. It's fun to put Ashcroft, Cheney and their fellows down. The performances are as over-the-top as the premise, and at 65 minutes, director John Clancy keeps us amused.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


October 15th, 2004

If you want to see one of the worst written, acted and directed shows in town, try WHITE CHOCOLATE by William Hamilton, directed by Davie Schweitzer. The premise, white couple, one a WASP, the other Jewish, wake up to find that they are black, can be funny, as in the really witty movie from the 60's, WATERMELLON MAN starring Godfrey Cambridge. Not in WHITE CHOCOLATE. It labors to be funny, pushing everything over the
top-- no acting, only performance at full blast, wasting talents like Julie Halston and Lynn whitfield. It is the lowest level of sitcom-- shallow idiocy comes to mind. The set, by James Noone, was just fine. When I reach the point in a production when I
would pay money not to be there, I leave. Perhaps Act 2 redeemed the production, but I left at intermission.

* Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


October 12th, 2004

Keep you eye open next year for the STARVING ARTISTS BALL. I just went for the second time, and it once again has an interesting art exhibit, music live and recorded, dancing, food, drink, and an elegant air. A joyous cultural time was had by all.

Richmond Shepard--


October 11th, 2004

Take what I say with a grain of salt on this one-- I'm a Mime and have longtime experience with great clowns like Avner The Eccentric or Bill Irwin (or Emmett Kelly). SLAVA'S SNOWSHOW, at the Union Square Theatre, is about ten percent good clowning, a couple of good clown dances by the several other identical
tramp clowns in the show, and the rest is not much besides sounds (some irritating, some interesting, some awfully loud) by Rastyam Dubinnikov, bubbles, an interesting uncredited set, and good lighting by Oleg Iline. The audience gets water squirted at them several times, a spider web pulled over their heads, and a hurricane of paper snow in their faces at the end (don't sit in the front) with blinding light and sound blasting at them. Slava, whose stage persona is rather sleepy, is not particularly funny-- the only ones who laughed when I was there were the three
year olds in the audience. He does have a cute bit with telephones and a nice moment of clown romance with a coat on a clothestree, but all in all, it's more sizzle than steak.

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


October 7th, 2004

Oh Boy-there's a new musical political/satirical review just opened, and- Oh Boy-O-Boy! It's great!!! NEWSICAL, at Studio 54, with four Broadway-level characterizers, Kim Cea, Todd Alan Johnson, Stephanie Kurtzuba and Jeff Skowron, the only show of its kind in New York now, directed by Donna Drake, is terrific.
It's funny, insightful, yes- enthralling-- all with great writing by Rick Crom, clever design by Peter P. Allburn, zany costumes by David Kaley, and superb performances. And- it's even handed. Makes fun of everybody, left and right. Of course Kerry and Bush
are targets, but so is McGreevey of New Jersey, Schwartzenegger, Martha Stewart, the Kennedys in heaven, and wait 'til you see Kim Cea as Barbara Streisand, absolutely brilliant as Michael Jackson, and hilarious as a deadpan Botox recipient reminiscent of Virginia O'Brien, the deadpan movie actress from
long ago who you never heard of but I saw. And Stephanie is an unforgettable Liza. They cover AOL dating, Queer Eye, tranquilizers, Dr. Phil, Gay Rights, and lots more. The second half goes deeper into out collective psyche, and tops the first's
social issues. All terrific singers, all with superb comic timing, all bitten with the comedy bug that is rare and totally engrossing.
If you don't have a good time, I'll give you a dollar.

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


September 30th, 2004

I saw a rather odd, but still engaging, show the other night. Act One of WOMEM ON THE VERGE OF HRT, by Marie Jones, is about the angst of a middle aged divorced woman (Joan D. Slavin) and her still married (but unloved) friend (Kelly Taylor) in Donegal, Ireland, in a hotel where they have come from Belfast to see a
singer do a show. Both women are strong performers, and their emotions are clear. Then they sing a song, in an antique, almost John Gay mode, and the tone shifts-- although they are both quite good. Back to the scene, and a waiter (Tom Souhrada) turns the play into a romantic musical when he sings in a more
contemporary vein. Then it goes back to the content:
the invisibility of middle-aged women. Act Two is a different show-a surreal fantasy, set near the shore, and Souhrada plays the ex-husband, his second wife, the unloving husband, and several other characters of all ages and natures. He's remarkable-an extraordinary actor and singer. The content still has a lot to do with getting older. But there are lots of (perhaps too many) axes to grind, and it becomes, in its totality, a somewhat repetitious pastiche of style and content. Still, as directed by Lynne Taylor Corbett, who plumbs all possibilities of the play, it
is an interesting piece of theatre performed by really good actor/singers.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


September 20th, 2004

In BEYOND THE DMZ, director Eu-Hee Kim and choreographer Natasa Trifan have created a powerful dance piece about Korean history, the separation of North and South, the Korean War, the Demilitarized Zone, and it's impact fifty years later on families
who have been separated. This Dance-Drama is well conceived and artistically well executed. The supple, well-trained bodies of the agile dancers in the company, using Modern Dance form, clearly communicate the pain, the joy, the lives of these people. BEYOND THE DMZ is quite moving as, through graceful energetic
movement by the nine dancers, sound (by Hyun Joon Yoon), music, costumes (by Tae S. Kim), and light (by Daniel Green) it tells its powerful story of love, separation, search.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


September 16th, 2004

Horton Foote is unique. Nobody today writes like him in the soft Southern tone that quietly places you in the house with friends, becoming part of their lives. In THE DAY EMILY MARRIED, now at 59E59 Theatre, exposition is gently slipped into seemingly ordinary
conversation of this Texas family in 1925, and there is not a dull moment in the ordinariness of these peoples' conversation in this moment of possibility, frustration, pain, and insight into the human heart. With extraordinary performances by the amazing Estelle Parsons in the complex role of an off-center woman,
the tender Hallie Foote who is always inside her roles, and Biff McGuire as the aging man trying to hold it together, and fine performances by the rest of the cast, directed by Michael Wilson and designed by Jeff Cowie, this production is a wonderful highlight to begin the Theatre season.

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

TALENT, by Victoria Wood, directed by John Keating, is a British comedy which takes place in the dressing room of a low-level theatre in the provences. The featured actresses, Laura Knight as an aspiring singer, and Aedin Moloney as her friend, are quite
amusing as they encounter an old magician (Alfred Hyslop), his sidekick (Arthur Hall), and Tim Smallwood in two parts, one of them the epitome of sleaze. The jokes are British, and a bit different from American humor, and so are many of the references. Brits in the audience laughed in places that the Americans didn't, particularly in some of the light vulgarities,
which I have found to be a common element in British humor in my many trips to GB. It is funny, but it's not my funny. But-altogether, it's a short, light, fun evening.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and

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