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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: On the Exhale

February 19, 2017: Marin Ireland is a delicate conduit for raw emotions. Watching her deliver the hourlong monologue On the Exhale, Martín Zimmerman’s carefully wrought study of a mother undone by loss, you half expect her to crack and shatter before your eyes. With her pale skin and fine, Pre-Raphaelite features, this actress hardly seems built for the depths of anguish she delivers with such regularity and expertise on New York stages. Yet it’s the illusion she conveys of transparency — as if she were indeed made of spun glass — that lets us perceive so clearly a blinding darkness within.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Escaped Alone

February 16, 2017: Fear festers, burrows and blooms in Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone, a short and wondrous play that plumbs the depths of 21st-century terrors, large and small. These range from the eccentrically personal (as in being uncomfortable around cats) to the sweepingly historic — as in, well, the end of the world as we know it. Now if you yourself are in an apprehensive state of mind these days (and I’d wager, somehow, that you are), you might think a show about what scares people would be the last thing you’d want as entertainment. Yet this British import, which runs through Feb. 26 at the Harvey Theater of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, has the effect of a restorative tonic, and you may find a new bounce in your step as you leave it.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Evening at the Talk House

February 16, 2017: If you happen to hang out at Broadway watering holes like Joe Allen’s, you’ve probably overheard conversations much like those that babble through Evening at the Talk House, Wallace Shawn’s anxious excavation of moral cowardice in a fascist age, which opened on Thursday night at the Pershing Square Signature Center.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Man from Nebraska

February 15, 2017: Though its words are well chosen and artfully placed, Tracy Letts’s Man From Nebraska, which opened on Wednesday night at Second Stage Theater, has a radiant respect for what cannot be said. As directed with masterly force and delicacy by David Cromer, with a matching performance by Reed Birney in the title role, this beautiful drama of lost faith occurs amid a darkness that swallows language.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Good Samaritans

February 15, 2017: More than a dozen years before the hit film La La Land set an everyday urban romance to song, another pair of star-crossed lovers were making oddly similar music together on a New York stage. Their names are Rosemary and Kevin, and they have returned to the city this month in Good Samaritans (first seen in Brooklyn in 2004), written and directed by the experimental theater auteur Richard Maxwell, at the Abrons Arts Center. Portrayed by performers named Rosemary (last name: Allen) and Kevin (Hurley), Rosemary and Kevin are not, it should be noted, in exactly the same mold as the couple played by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land. They’re older, for one thing, and not nearly as cosmetically perfect.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Life According to Saki

February 13, 2017: A chipper young troupe out of Britain is pulling sunshine from the dark in Life According to Saki, a bouncy adaptation of the elegantly macabre short stories of its title character. A hit at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year, this brisk entertainment bears the same relation to its source material as the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins did to the novels that inspired it. That is to say, it’s perfectly enjoyable as a whimsy-splashed showcase for fresh-faced talent. But the distinctive perversity of the author it riffs upon ultimately eludes the talented creators of this hourlong production, which opened on Monday night at the Fourth Street Theater.

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