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Photo: Sara Krulwich

OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Transfers

April 23, 2018: Their lives, the young men insist, should not be reduced to stories, to the sort of sentimental or sensational anecdotes that might captivate a college admissions office. The anxious heroes of Lucy Thurber’s “Transfers” are boys from the Bronx who find themselves amid the manicured groves of a New England campus, and they understandably bristle at the prospect of being packaged and sold as novelties in an ivory-tower world.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Travesties

April 24, 2018:

Senility is a joy ride in the exultant, London-born revival of Tom Stoppard’s “Travesties,” which opened on Tuesday night at the American Airlines Theater. This account of a clash of three cultural titans — James Joyce, Vladimir Lenin and the Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara — in Zurich during World War I is related decades later by an ancient witness (one Henry Carr, of the British Consulate). His recollection is, to put it kindly, capricious.

Yet the mind of this old man (played with a gourmand’s gusto by Tom Hollander) is filled with such bright bits of history, real and imagined, that whenever he tries to remember, his thoughts erupt like showers of confetti. My advice to anyone attending this show of rollicking intellect and silly stagecraft, which has been deliciously directed by Patrick Marber: Let it rain and soak it in.

By evening’s end, you’ll be surprised by the iridescent clarity that has emerged from Mr. Stoppard’s artfully chaotic assemblage of rampant speculation, literary texts, great-man biography parodies, legal documents, political tracts and rude schoolboy japes. That clarity won’t last, any more than a rainbow does.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

April 23, 2018:

The biographical jukebox musical — of which “Jersey Boys” provides a shining example, thanks to all the Brylcreem — is the cockroach of Broadway. It has a small head, a primitive nervous system and will probably outlast the apocalypse.

Even by that standard, “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” which opened on Monday at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, is a blight. Despite the exciting vocalism of a cast led by the formidable LaChanze, it reduces the late Queen of Disco and pioneer of electronica to a few factoids and song samples that make her seem profoundly inconsequential. You could learn more (and more authentically) by reading a thoughtful obituary while listening to her hits — “Hot Stuff,” “Last Dance,” “She Works Hard for the Money,” among many others — online.

But then you would not be contributing to the music publishing enterprise that keeps jukebox musicals coming no matter how hard they get stomped on by critics.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

April 22, 2018:

Time is a dangerous toy in “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the enthralling two-part play about the later life of its title wizard. Various characters in this deluxe London import, which opened on Sunday night at the Lyric Theater, find it in their power to journey into the past, which means altering the future, which means serious trouble for everyone.

In that regard, these stumbling adventure-seekers must be regarded as lesser magicians than their creators, who include J.K. Rowling, the writer of the prodigiously popular Harry Potter fantasy novels, and the poetic director John Tiffany (“Black Watch,” “The Glass Menagerie”). This inspired team bends time to its will with an imagination and discipline that leave room for nary a glitch, making five hours of performance pass in a wizardly wink of an eye.

Featuring a script by Jack Thorne — from an original story by Ms. Rowling, Mr. Thorne and Mr. Tiffany — “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” also gives vibrant, decades-traversing life to those wistful “what if” speculations about the past that occupy both grown-ups and children. It’s a process that involves folding stories into stories into stories, collapsing years into minutes and making dreams feel eternal, and more vivid than reality.

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