News & Reviews from New York
November 27th, 2013

The current production of WAITING FOR GODOT is my favorite (and I’ve seen many of them), an imaginative and very enjoyable take on the once controversial play by Samuel Beckett, starring two veteran actors, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, having a great time exercising their tremendous talents as they wait for the expected, never arriving, Godot. They are aided and abetted by Shuler Hensley and Billy Cruddup as Pozzo and his slave, Lucky. Director Sean Mathias, while maintaining all of the philosophical cerebrations of the play, has turned it into a vaudeville show filled with song, dance, and great physical schtick by these adept actors who communicate with their entire bodies: arms, legs, torsos faces and toes, and include clown hat tricks that entertains us as they try to entertain each other to make the time go by.

Scenic design by Stephen Brimson Lewis gives us the decrepit back yard of formerly upscale buildings, with holes and escape hatches, and the called-for tree. I don’t agree with his costume choices for Pozzo and Lucky, but they do work. Lighting by Peter Kaczorowski is just right, and subtly enhances the proceedings. Four accents are used in the play: Middle class English for Stewart, strange sort of Scottish for Mcellan, broad Southern Texas blowhard for Hensley, and in Crudup’s amazing verbal outburst we hear an undercurrent of General American as he dances and physicalizes all over the place. But it all works, perhaps emphasizing their differences. It’s a great show, and I’ glad to see Patrick Steward sing and dance in it.

Richmond Shepard—Performing Arts INSIDER and

November 21st, 2013

I saw a good-looking, charming singing duo at The Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street: Marcus Simeone and Tanya Holt, in what they call “Quiet Storm,” cleanly directed by Lina Koutrakos. Each is a fine solo singer, which they demonstrate beautifully, and it’s even more exciting when they cross voices in counterpoint or close harmony in a wide range of songs, nicely arranged by music director Tracy Stark, from older works by Bernstein/Sondheim to more contemporary pieces, and sprinkled with humor as in Cole Porters “It’s Alright With Me.” The band is hot- with Stark on piano, Marco Brehm on bass and David Silliman on drums. “Quiet Storm” will appear there again on December 28th and January 26th. 212/206-0440.

Richmond Shepard—Performing Arts INSIDER and

MURDER FOR TWO, book and music by Joe Kinosian, book and lyrics by Kelllen Blair, directed with zip and panache by Scott Schwartz, choreography by Wendy Seyb, gives us two piano virtuosos, each accompanying the other, in a marvelous musical farce in which Brett Ryback plays the interrogator of murder suspects and Jeff Blumenkrantz, a great farceur, plays at least a dozen suspects, male, female, old and young, all neatly defined caricatures, flipping from one to the next, changing attitude, physicality, voice and movement, and small costume adjustments, in the manner of Charles Ludlum in “Irma Vep,” and Cliff Saunders in “Thirty-nine Steps”. It’s a real tour-de-force-- a feat not to be missed. Fine, simple set by Beowulf Borritt, lighting by Jason Lyons and costumes by Andrea Lauer, and the patter of the songs all work perfectly together to give us one of the most fun shows in town, with non-stop laughter.

Richmond Shepard—Performing Arts INSIDER and

Woah—another amazing multi-character performance: Jefferson Mays in A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER- book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman, music and lyrics by Steven Litvak, plays old, young, male, female, aristocrat and buffoon. There must be quite a crew backstage to achieve the lightning-fast changes of costume. The show is presented as a nineteenth century musical fest based on the premise of the old English film “Kind Hearts and Coronets” starring Alec Guiness in which a man who is 8th or 12th in line for high aristocratic position decides to kill his way up the line. Beautiful design by Alexander Dodge, with perfect lighting by Philip S. Rosenberg, presents a colorful picture of an 1890’s spectacle, which is amplified by Linda Cho’s illuminating costumes. All of the casting by director Darko Tresnjak is inspired-- Bryce Pinkham commands the stage as the ambitious climber, the two contrasting leading ladies, the tall blonde Lisa O’Hare and the short, dark Lauren Worsham, are both quite beautiful and are terrific singers with operatic tones which fits perfectly with the Gilbert and Sullivanesque songs, which are filled with lyrical romanticism plus humor, as in “I Don’t Understand the Poor.” The melodies linger, the performances by the entire versatile cast are merely superb. The show has a gay sensibility in both the old and the contemporary (“It’s Better With A Man”) use of the word, and the crisp comic staging by Tresniak, is brilliant. I didn’t stop smiling through the two acts. The show is a sure Tony nominee, and I’d vote for it to win.

Richmond Shepard—Performing

Novembner 13th, 2013

THE GLASS MENAGERIE by Tennessee Williams is a gentle, sensitive play about a family: mother (Cherry Jones) who is delusional about realities as she tries to hold things together and possibly find a husband for her daughter with a bad leg; daughter (Celia Keenan-Bolger); and a restless son (Zachary Quinto, all with frustrations, each with insecurities that manifest in the girl as a delicate shyness with her as fragile as her collection of glass animals, and the young man as a person trapped. But, as directed by John Tiffany, the acting by Jones and Quinto is overblown, starting with Quinto’s introductory speech which he sings in a half-crying tone (he does the same in his coda) and an overbearing, over the top Jones who shouts and chews up the scenery in both Act 1 and Act 2. Keenan-Bolger is fine— an almost ethereal wisp of a girl withdrawn into her dreams. The lines of the play, the dialogue, has within it the emotional vagaries of the content— they just need to be said, not shouted or cried- the gentle simplicity here is destroyed. Brian ?. Smith is spot on as the very believable gentleman caller in Act 2. Missing from this production is a Southern gentility that Williams infused in his plays (and some of the Southern accents drift).

I believe that Bob Crowley is the best designer in the world. But in this production he has out-innovated himself. His abstract construction suggesting a tall building with fire escapes is creative, original, and sets the scene well. His idea to have a reflective pool of water covering the downstage so that part of the audience (on the mezzanine and above) can see a reflection of the action, is ridiculous. So is his caricature of a costume for Jones in Act 2. But- you can’t win ‘em all. Ya gotta love a man who will stick his neck out like this.

Richmond Shepard—Performing Arts INSIDER and

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