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Photo: Sara Krulwich

OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: The Dead, 1904

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December 8, 2016: For a theatrical evening with a gloomy title, “The Dead, 1904,” based on the celebrated James Joyce story (absent the date, of course), makes for an unusually sparkling affair. Unless you glide among the upper echelons of New York society, you are not likely to attend a holiday gathering in a more sumptuous setting this season. This immersive theatrical adaptation of Joyce’s story is presented at the American Irish Historical Society, on a splendid stretch of Fifth Avenue near the Metropolitan Museum. (The Irish Repertory Theater production is presented by the society in association with Dot Dot Productions.) The building, originally a private residence from 1900, is a grand one. The rooms on the second floor, in which most of the action occurs, are lit by chandeliers that shed mellow golden light on intricately molded wood and plaster. (Perhaps grander than the rooms in the story, but who’s complaining?)

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: The Band’s Visit

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December 8, 2016: Boredom has never sounded sexier than it does in “The Band’s Visit,” the beautiful new musical by David Yazbek and Itamar Moses that opened on Thursday night at the Atlantic Theater Company. Most of the show is set in a small Israeli town where, its residents are eager to tell you, absolutely nothing happens. The name of this unhappy little village is not to be confused (as it crucially is by one of the show’s characters) with that of the bigger and more eventful Pet Hatikva. No, Bet Hatikva begins with a B, as in “basically bleak and beige and blah blah blah.” Yet as intoned in the opening song of this slyly seductive show, directed by an inspired David Cromer and starring a chemically bonded Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk, such arid adjectives have a way of springing into bloom, perfuming the air with a yearning that teases the senses. All that “blah blah blah” is steeped in a somnolent restlessness that promises sweet awakenings.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Can I Get a Witness?

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December 11, 2016: A fierce tide of feeling — rage and despair, love and hope and exaltation — courses through “Can I Get a Witness?,” an almost indefinable work of music theater created by the performer and musician Meshell Ndegeocello, and inspired by “The Fire Next Time,” James Baldwin’s incisive polemic about race in America, first published in 1963. Produced by Harlem Stage, where it runs through Sunday, the performance is subtitled “The Gospel of James Baldwin,” and indeed it mimics the format of a religious service. Some audience members sit in pews, and we are each given the “order of service.” A few performers wear costumes, inventively designed by Abigail DeVille, that look vaguely ecclesiastical — but with flashes of color and brocade and even gaudy jewels. Ms. Ndegeocello, who plays bass and presides loosely over the proceedings, wears a priestly robe of silver and blue. Several segments incorporate call-and-response; there’s even a moment when we are given small glasses of water to drink, although there’s no suggestion that it’s particularly holy.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Elements of Oz

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December 8, 2016: A loose, loopy and enjoyable seminar on the making of “The Wizard of Oz” and its influence on pop culture, this Builders Association production, running through Dec. 18, combines live video and performance. Several famous scenes from the movie are more or less filmed anew before us; the digital video is dazzlingly pristine, and it’s fun to watch the wry comic impersonations of the original performances.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Tiny Beautfiul Things

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December 7, 2016: Whenever a certain flicker — of curiosity, recognition and bone-deep affinity — lights up the gaze of the woman who calls herself Sugar, brace yourself for a good (and good is the word) cry. You can first spot that wakening flame in the opening minutes of “Tiny Beautiful Things,” the handkerchief-soaking meditation on pain, loss, hope and forgiveness that opened on Wednesday night at the Public Theater. At that point, a professional writer who is also a mother of two has just agreed, via phone, to be the agony aunt for an unpaid online advice column called “Dear Sugar.” Portrayed by Nia Vardalos, the newly anointed Sugar finds her toy-cluttered kitchen and living room invaded by a multitude of voices, embodied by three performers who circle her like wandering satellites. Questions pour out of them, about being seasick and about being spied on (by the widow next door), about needing money and about having an eighth-grade science class partner who picks his nose. But it’s the guy who identifies himself as “Confused” who causes Sugar to open her eyes wider and really, really focus.

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