Monday, September 26, 2016


Manhattan Theatre Club
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
September 24, 2016

Photo courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club
Mary-Louise Parker is astonishing in Heisenberg, presently in previews at Manhattan Theatre Club.  She creates a character that is witty, needy, and neurotic.  Her chemistry with costar Denis Arndt is magnetic.  Together they captivate the audience in this intimate, two character play by Simon Stephens.

Georgia Burns (played by Mary-Louise Parker) kisses the back of the neck of a total a stranger, Alex Priest (played by Denis Arndt).  She then proceeds to weave a tale of lies.  A few days later, she seeks him out in his butcher shop to tell him the truth about herself.  Alex gradually opens up to her.  She then reveals her true motivations.  What occurs next surprises the both of them.

Denis Arndt & Mary-Louise Parker
Photo courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club
To create an intimate setting at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, director Mark Brokaw and scenic designer Mark Wendland seats the two hundred or so audience members from the balcony on stage.  The playing area is forced to the narrow downstage section.  With only two tables and two chairs to move around to represent various locations, your focus goes directly to the connection between the two characters.  The push and pull between then plays out for ninety minutes and comes to a calm and gratifying fulfillment for both of their needs.

Heisenberg is a unique and tender script.  The characters are quirky and real.  The production is minimal and perfectly conceived.  It opens on October 13, and runs through December 4.

Domenick Danza

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard
Roundabout Theatre Company
American Airlines Theatre
September 23, 2016

Photo courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company
Stephen Karam’s new adaptation of The Cherry Orchardpresently in previews at Roundabout Theatre Company, is spectacular.  Mr. Karam brings Chekhov’s masterpiece into the 21st century, making clear the economic class changes in Russia in 1904.  Director Simon Godwin highlights moments for each character that range from heartwarming to victorious to tragic.  Together this partnership takes the audience on a journey deep within their own fears, resistances, and futures.  They create a final act that is pertinent to present day class struggles. 

The Andreyevich family is facing bankruptcy.  Their estate, which includes their most valued cherry orchard, is soon to be auctioned off to pay their debts.  Ranevskaya (played by Diane Lane) returns from Paris in an attempt to unite with her family in saving the cherry orchard.  They face the monumental challenges that come with an unwillingness to accept their economic collapse and present circumstances.

Diane Lane & Harold Perrineau
Photo courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company
Harold Perrineau is encouraging and confident as Lopakhin, whose father and grandfather were serf (slaves), once owned by the Andreyevich family.  The parallels of Tsar Alexander II’s Emancipation Reform of 1861 to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 are clear and effective.  Lopakhin’s sense of empowerment is victorious when he purchases the cherry orchard at auction.  It is a severely jubilant moment that packs a mighty punch to the Andreyevich family.  Mr. Perrineau’s portrayal is authentic and truthful. 

Led by Diane Lane, the entire cast is outstanding.  She is revered, tender, and stoic as Ranevskaya.  Ms. Lane carries the grandeur of her character’s past as a protection from the future.  Her sense of hope and belief is powerful, and her loss and grief are devastating.  John Glover is charming, silly, and strong as her brother, Gaev.  The naiveté of his character brings levity to the seriousness of the family’s situation, which magnifies their downfall.  Joel Grey is sad and touching as Firs, the aging butler.  His grasp of the old ways is potent and eerie.  His timing and humor are endearing, illustrating a warm view of the family’s obsolete lifestyle.  There are also strong performances by Chuck Cooper, Tavi Gevinson, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Kyle Beltran, Tina Benko, Susannah Flood, and Quinn Mattfeld. 

The set design by Scott Pask is brilliant.  His powerful images and choices of symbols conjure broad emotions that force the audience to delve into their imagination.  This is further enhanced by the lighting design of Donald Holder.  Michael Krass’ costume designs span centuries, thus pushing the perspective into the present.  Together these designers make the family’s loss and reluctant acceptance of change a valid occurrence to a present day audience.

Celia Keenan-Bolger, Diane lane, Tavi Gevinson, & Kyle Beltran
Photo courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company
This production is not to be missed.  Chekhov’s complex characters and deeply emotional play is relevant and alive in Mr. Karam’s new version.  The Cherry Orchard runs at the American Airlines Theatre through December 4.

Domenick Danza

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Taste of Honey

A Taste of Honey
The Pearl Theater Co.
September 17, 2016

Photo courtesy of The Pearl Theatre Co.
A Taste of Honey is receiving a poignant and well-deserved revival at The Pearl Theatre Co.  Director Austin Pendleton finds just the right pace and tone that brings texture and relevance to Shelagh Delaney’s timeless and valuable script.  The cast delivers authentic and moving performances in this raw and honest production. 

The play tells of the complex relationship between Jo (played by Rebekah Brockman) and her mother, Helen (played by Rachel Botchan).  Helen abandons Jo when she jumps at the chance to marry Peter (played by Bradford Cover), a man with some money and means.  There is hope that Jo will have a future with her sailor boyfriend, Jimmy (played by Ade Otukoya), but he does not return from service, leaving her pregnant and alone.  She befriends Geoffrey (played by John Evans Reese), an outcast gay male.  Geoffrey takes over Jo’s care.  Any sense of security is thrown into disarray when Helen returns and discovers that Jo is carrying a biracial baby.

Rachel Botchan & Rebekah Brockman
Photo courtesy of The Pearl Theatre Co.
The plot does not sound very daring, but keep in mind that A Taste of Honey was first produced on the West End of London in 1958.  Portraying unmarried mothers, homosexuality, and biracial relationships was shocking and groundbreaking at that time.  Not only that, but playwright Shelagh Delaney was only eighteen when she wrote the play.  The severity of the dialogue and the depth of the characters are skillfully developed for a playwright of any age and experience level.  Her dialogue boomerangs, creating levels of emotional response in the relationships that unmask prolific characters and an insightful point of view. 

Rachel Botchan, Bradford Cover, & the Musicians
Photo courtesy of The Pearl Theatre Co.
Rebekah Brockman is sad, brooding, strong, and intense as Jo.  Her character runs directly into conflict, fights like mad, then retreats.  She generates a formidable level of empathy.  Rachel Botchan portrays Helen as a fierce survivor.  Her actions might be deplorable, yet you understand they are based on her limited choices.  John Evans Reese is charming and willful as Geoffrey.  He remains stoic and determined in his commitment to Jo, and never loses his sense of humor.

The characters’ fears and biases reflect their economic struggles and are not limited to the time period of the play.  The needs, expectations, and emotional conflicts in the relationships are pertinent to every generation. 

A Taste of Honey runs at the Pearl Theatre Co. (on 42nd Street between 10th and 11th Ave.) through October 30.  Be sure to see it!

Domenick Danza

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

All the Ways to Say I Love You
MCC Theater
Lucille Lortel Theatre
September 11, 2016

Photo courtesy of MCC Theater
What is the weight of a lie?  That is the questions asked in Neil LaBute’s new play All the Ways to Say I Love You presently playing at the Lucille Lortel Theatre.  This sixty minute, one woman piece is produced by MCC Theater and directed by Leigh Silverman.  The play is mesmerizing, tender, and shocking.  Judith Light excels as a school teacher with a deep secret that she has kept hidden for sixteen years.

Ms. Johnson (played by Judith Light) has been teaching high school English and Drama for thirty or so years.  When a student asks on one of the first days of school, “What is the weight of a lie?” she has no answer.  This prods her to open up about an encounter that once took place between her and a male student.  She gradually peels back the layers of her passion, deceit, marriage, and underlying motivations until she is able to define the weight of her own lie.

Playwright Neil LaBute
Photo courtesy of MCC Theater
Neil LaBute has magnificently woven a story where every word and phrase is valuable to understanding the main character.  As you intellectually piece the story together, you are viscerally drawn into the emotional complexity and depth of the action.  Ms. Light is brilliant in creating sincere moments that bond the audience to her.  Her character physically eases into a trusting relationship with each individual in front of her as she opens up with genuinely honest confessions.  As shocking as some of her revelations are, you understand and support her.  She confides in you as she would a trusted and intimate friend.  Director Leigh Silverman found the perfect perspective for this piece by having Ms. Light create this personal one-on-one relationship with the audience.  It is absorbing and moving. 
Photo courtesy of MCC Theaater
All the Ways to Say I Love You is a unique and remarkable piece of theatre.  Due to demand, MCC has already extended the run through October 16.  Go on line and get your ticket NOW!

Domenick Danza

Monday, September 12, 2016

Edwin: The Story of Edwin Booth

Edwin: The Story of Edwin Booth
Great Circle Productions
Theatre at Saint Clement’s
September 10, 2016

Photo courtesy of Great Circle Productions
Great Circle Productions presents Edwin: The Story of Edwin Booth for a limited Off-Broadway run at the Theatre at Saint Clement’s.  It is a musical with a very dark score by Marianna Rosett.  The book and lyrics by Eric Swanson weave a grim tale of the fall of a family due to egotism, alcohol, and a historic act of significant magnitude.    

The play takes place on January 3, 1866 in New York City.  Edwin Booth is returning to the Winter Garden Theatre in the role of Hamlet after a long absence from the stage following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by his brother, John Wilkes Booth.  He is haunted by the ghosts of his father, brother, and wife as he prepares for his performance.  The action moves back in time as the facts of this family’s notoriety are exposed.  The characters play out scenes from Shakespeare, which clearly illustrate the heightened tragedy embedded in their family relationships.

Dana Watkins & Paul DeBoy
Photo courtesy of Great Circle Production
Dana Watkins is strong as Edwin.  His smooth transitions in time and location are clear and keep the action of the play connected.  He easily moves from Shakespeare scenes into Edwin’s present emotional state, then into song, creating emotional truths in each moment.  The scenes between Edwin and his father, Junius Booth (played by Paul DeBoy), are wonderfully written and directed.  Mr. DeBoy plays an overbearing egotist who teaches his son the skills he needs to become one of the greatest actors of his time.  Their relationship grows and builds with clear flaws and cracks that bring their downfall just a few years later.  Todd Lawson portrays John Wilkes Booth with a seething unrest that incites attention and builds conflict.  His stage presence is powerful and riveting.  Ben Mayne is charming as Rob, who is hired as a bodyguard and dresser to Edwin for the Winter Garden performance.  Rob often quotes his father to cheer up Edwin.  The twist in the ending scene when the identity of Rob’s father is revealed, whether historically true or not, adds a layer of depth to the plot and beautifully ties up the theme.

Todd Lawson & Dana Watkins
Photo courtesy of Great Circle Productions
The telling of this story through the ghosts and hauntings of the past is a brilliant concept.  The play is strongly constructed. Director Christopher Scott skillfully brings this accomplished cast of seven to the point of creating realistic characters and honest relationships.  The production, however, feels weighted down and the conflicts do not resolve.  In this play, as in real life, Edwin’s challenges and accomplishments are overshadowed by his brother’s action.  Edwin runs at the Theatre at St. Clement’s on 46th Street through September 18.

Domenick Danza

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Color Purple

The Color Purple
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
September 4, 2016

Photo courtesy of  The Color Purple
The Broadway revival of The Color Purple is a joyous celebration of the human spirit.  The vocal power of the magnificent cast erupts from the stage and energizes the theatre from the opening number and continues throughout the show.  Director John Doyle beautifully and seamlessly stages the action of the play on a unit set he designed himself.  The music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray evoke passion and empathy, and with book by Marsha Norman present clearly defined characters facing harsh challenges and brutal obstacles.

Cynthia Erivo is a powerhouse as Celie.  Her character grows and flourishes over the forty year duration of the story.  Heather Headley is strong and fierce as Shug Avery.  Her presence is magnetic, and her voice and characterization are authentic.  Isaiah Johnson skillfully portrays the many layers of Mister from his abusive outrage to his redeemed unselfishness.  Danielle Brooks, as Sofia, and Kyle Scatliffe, as Harpo, capture your heart and make your soul soar.  The juxtaposition of Sophie’s “hell no” approach to life and Harpo’s naïve optimism grabs your attention, makes you laugh, then delivers startling truths.  These two characters have a prominent story line that twists and turns beneath the arc of Celie’s journey.  Ms. Brooks and Mr. Scatliffe make the most out of every moment they are on stage.

Danielle Brooks & Kyle Scatliffe
Photos courtesy of The Color Purple

Heather Headley & Cynthia Erivo
Photo courtesy of The Color Purple
The balance in the sound design was off during the performance I attended.  The volume was so loud that it was difficult to understand some of the dialogue.  This is a very surprising occurrence in a Broadway production, yet it did not take away from the powerful impact of the performance.  The ending will leave you peaceful and joyous.  Go see it! 

Domenick Danza

Monday, September 5, 2016

Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure
The Drilling Company
Bryant Park Shakespeare
September 2, 2016

Photo courtesy of The Drilling Company
The summer might be coming to an end, but there is one more free Bryant Park Shakespeare performance to enjoy.  The Drilling Company’s Measure for Measure is playing Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through September 17.  Director Hamilton Clancy brings life to one of Shakepeare’s darker comedies with a remarkable cast and colorful concept.  He sets the play in present day in Viennaville, Louisiana with singing and live music that frame the action and energize the pace.

The synopsis from The Drilling Company’s program:  “Mayor “Duke” Vincentio, seeing his beloved town torn by lax oversight of the law, leaves Emergency Financial Manager Angelo in charge of righting the city.  Angelo decides to begin arresting people for petty offenses and putting them to death to show he’s serious.  Claudio is thrown into prison for getting Juliet pregnant (different Juliet from Romeo).  He asks his pal Lucio if he’ll go to the Nunnery and ask his sister Isabella to plead for mercy for him.  She does.  The righteous manager sees an opportunity to manage more than the city.  Meanwhile, Vincentio disguises himself as a Friar, visits prison, learns of Angelo’s proposition to Isabella, and plots to help her win mercy for Claudio.”

The Stage at Bryant Park
Photo courtesy of Bryant Park Shakespeare
Lukas Raphael is cunning and unscrupulous as Angelo.  Ivory Aquino captures your heart as Isabella.  Together they are beguiling and generate startling intrigue through Shakespeare’s complex scenes.  Emanuel Elpernord commands the Bryant Park stage as Duke Vincentio.  Michael William Bernstein is captivating and entertaining as Lucio.  Jarrod Bates shines in every scene, skillfully portraying six distinct characters ranging from serious to slapstick, as well as playing the trumpet and mandolin.  Rachel A. Collins, Serena E. Miller, Aly Byatt, Eric Paterniani, Kendra Lee Oberhauser, TJ Wagner, Veronica Nolte, Andrew Dahreddine, and Wesley Zurick all create colorful and genuine characters who engage in truthful relationships which conjure a realistic setting that evokes the culture of the Louisiana.

Photo courtesy of The Drilling Company
End the summer season with quality outdoor Shakespeare that The Drilling Company is famous for.  Measure for Measure plays Thursday nights at 9:00 and Friday and Saturday nights at 7:00 through September 17.  All performances are FREE at Bryant Park.

Domenick Danza