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Photo: Deen van Meer

BROADWAY REVIEW: The Prom

November 15, 2018: “The Prom” begins when a theater critic for The New York Times writes a pan so poisonous that the show he’s reviewing dies on the spot. That’s ridiculous. It could never happen. At any rate, it won’t happen now, because “The Prom,” which opened on Thursday at the Longacre Theater, is such a joyful hoot. With its kinetic dancing, broad mugging and belty anthems, it makes you believe in musical comedy again. These days, that takes some doing. How, after all, with so much pain in the air and so many constraints on what’s allowed to be funny, do we find the heart and permission to laugh?

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Mike Birbiglia’s The New One

November 11, 2018: If Mike Birbiglia were a piece of furniture, he would surely be a well-worn, deeply stained, slightly squishy couch, much like the one he describes at the beginning of “The New One,” his winning Broadway debut at the Cort Theater. That may not sound like a flattering comparison. But Mr. Birbiglia has great respect and affection for this kind of sofa, and so should you. As he explains in this one-man show, which opened on Sunday night under the seamless direction of Seth Barrish, a couch is “a deceptively simple piece of technology.” It is, to be precise, “a bed that hugs you.” And in delivering that deceptively simple classification, Mr. Birbiglia’s voice becomes a low, wraparound, pleasure-drenched caress.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: King Kong

November 8, 2018: BEN BRANTLEY Hello, Jesse. Though I’m not in a playful mood this morning — having just seen the spirit-crushing “King Kong” — what if we begin this dialogue with a game? Imagine you are on the street, having just left the theater, and are asked by a television interviewer to describe your response in one word. Well? JESSE GREEN It can’t be printed here, and I’m not even sure it’s one word. (It starts with “ape.”) So I guess I’ll go with “ugh.” BRANTLEY I understand what you’re saying. Since screaming is such a big part of the show, mine would be “aaaaaaaaargh.”

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BROADWAY REVIEW: American Son

November 4, 2018: Some great performances come with elaborate costumes or prosthetic noses attached. Some involve crackerjack timing or floods of tears. But the great performance Kerry Washington is giving in “American Son,” which opened on Sunday at the Booth Theater on Broadway, features no such decoration. The only thing Ms. Washington has to do as Kendra Ellis-Connor is bulldoze her way through 85 minutes of mounting agony as a mother whose son may be in desperate trouble. Let’s add “black” to that sentence, because it changes everything: “as a black mother whose son may be in desperate trouble.” “American Son,” by Christopher Demos-Brown, is part of a wave of new plays that consider the vulnerability of young black men in their dealings with the police. But unlike “Pass Over,” “Until the Flood,” “Kill Move Paradise” and “Scraps,” the style here is neither surreal nor poetic; it’s ticktock realism, deployed in real time. And the focus is not on the young men or the police but on the parents caught in between.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Torch Song

November 1, 2018: In life, drama queens, those extravagantly emotional beings who suck up all the oxygen in a room, are fatiguing souls, to be avoided at all costs when one is tired. But, ah, in fiction — in books and film, and especially on the stage — these same creatures can be an energizing joy, as stimulating as four shots of espresso. That’s why I am advising you to make the acquaintance of a grade-A specimen of this spectacular genus, whose presence is overflowing the Helen Hayes Theater. His undramatic name is Arnold Beckoff, though he also goes by the more promising moniker of Virginia Ham. And, as embodied by Michael Urie in the happy revival of Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song,” which opened on Thursday night, Arnold is just the guy and gal to pull you out of your election-season weariness.

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