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Photo: Sara Krulwich

OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Torch Song

October 19, 2017:

When Michael Urie and Mercedes Ruehl start to cut each other’s hearts out in the second act of Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song,” your responses are likely to be deeply divided. “Stop that right now!” you think. Because what they’re doing feels too painful, too private and quite possibly too close to your own home for public consumption.

But another part of you is flushed with the thrill that comes from watching two ideally matched performers, at the top of their games, demonstrating the unholy power of flesh and blood to wound its own. Portraying a New York drag queen and his mother visiting from Miami, Mr. Urie and Ms. Ruehl make a strong case for a fiercely tugged umbilical cord as the ultimate weapon of destruction.

Not bad for a three-decades-old comedy that would seemed to have passed its sell-by date years ago.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Animal Wisdom

October 13, 2017:

We who are gathered here tonight in an unconsecrated theater in Brooklyn have been asked to join in a holy invocation, beginning with “Oh, Lord,” as we raise cups filled with – not communion wine – but sacred Coca-Cola. Of course, if our faiths lean in other directions, we are told, we may substitute “Oh, goddess,” “Oh, goodness” or, if we believe in nothing, “O.K.”

This being hipsterfied Brooklyn, land of urban lumberjacks and secular beards, the “O.K.’s” dominate this particular call-and-response. Even agnostics, though, may find themselves almost believing in the spirits, holy and otherwise, who possess “Animal Wisdom,” Heather Christian’s truly one-of-a-kind opus at the Bushwick Starr through Nov. 4.

Ms. Christian, a singer and composer of blazing creative ambition, has set out to create nothing less than a bona fide, full-scale requiem for the dead in all our lives. Filling the roles of barefoot evangelist, séance leader, pianist, vocalist and stand-up memoirist, this willowy reed of a performer lends new credence to the term charismatic Christianity.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Springsteen on Broadway

There came a moment the other night, near the end of Bruce Springsteen’s overwhelming and uncategorizable Broadway show, when it seemed possible to see straight through his many masks to some core truth of his being.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Richard III

October 12, 2017:

An unhinged nation gets the unhinged leader it deserves.

This nasty but tidy political equation pulses in every molecule of Thomas Ostermeier’s stunning production of Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” which runs through Saturday as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. As dark jokes go, that one may not be your first choice as the basis for an evening’s entertainment, given the ways of the world these days.

But this production from Schaubühne Berlin, which fills the Harvey Theater with the pervasiveness of a slimy fog, could provide just the catharsis you need right now. After all, it’s the month of Halloween, when people find release in celebrating what scares them, laughing and shrieking in one breath.

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