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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Hamlet (Waterwell)

May 22, 2017:

As if the poor guy weren’t conflicted enough, Hamlet has taken on an extra burden of ambivalence in the new Waterwell production of the play that bears his name. In addition to worrying about all the usual melancholy Dane stuff — whether to be or not to be, act or not to act, help or hurt his mom — he is now torn (to pieces) between cultural identities.

For this scrupulously reworked version of Shakespeare’s best-known tragedy, which opened on Sunday at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture, the Prince of Denmark has become the Prince of Persia. Not that any proper names have been changed in Tom Ridgely’s streamlined production, which stars Arian Moayed (excellent in “The Humans” and a Tony nominee for “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”) and features the familiar Broadway faces of Sherie Rene Scott (as Gertrude) and Micah Stock (as Horatio).

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MOST RECENT REVIEWS

OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Hamlet (Waterwell)

May 22, 2017:

As if the poor guy weren’t conflicted enough, Hamlet has taken on an extra burden of ambivalence in the new Waterwell production of the play that bears his name. In addition to worrying about all the usual melancholy Dane stuff — whether to be or not to be, act or not to act, help or hurt his mom — he is now torn (to pieces) between cultural identities.

For this scrupulously reworked version of Shakespeare’s best-known tragedy, which opened on Sunday at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture, the Prince of Denmark has become the Prince of Persia. Not that any proper names have been changed in Tom Ridgely’s streamlined production, which stars Arian Moayed (excellent in “The Humans” and a Tony nominee for “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”) and features the familiar Broadway faces of Sherie Rene Scott (as Gertrude) and Micah Stock (as Horatio).

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Iphigenia in Splott

May 17, 2017:

Effie, the human firestorm raging through Gary Owen’s “Iphigenia in Splott,” at 59E59 Theaters, knows that if you saw her coming down the sidewalk, you would probably cross the street. A part of her resents this. But she also savors it; your discomfort confirms her strength.

You aren’t wrong to be afraid of Effie, the only character in this production from the Sherman Theater of Cardiff, Wales. As embodied by the dynamic young actress Sophie Melville, she combines incinerating contempt with the fierce, resilient hedonism that belongs to young adults for whom the day begins when the bars and the dance clubs open.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Venus

May 15, 2017:

Attention, please, those of you whose greatest ambition is to acquire the traffic-stopping body of Kim Kardashian. There is a less drastic alternative to costly and dangerous buttocks implants.

To wit: the fulsomely padded body stocking that is being modeled with flair and poignancy by Zainab Jah in the title role of Suzan-Lori Parks’s “Venus,” which opened in a patchy revival on Monday night at the Pershing Square Signature Center. It’s doubtful as to how comfortable such a stocking is as 24-hour wear. But it has the great advantage of not being permanent.

Ms. Jah is portraying a once-famous figure whose form was her fortune — and her ruin. That’s Saartjie (or Sarah) Baartman, a South African-born woman celebrated and reviled in early-19th-century Europe as Venus Hottentot, presented as a sideshow novelty guaranteed to “dazzle, surprise, intrigue, horrify and disgust.”

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Derren Brown: Secret

May 16, 2017: The title “Derren Brown: Secret,” the enthrallingly baffling one-mentalist show that opened on Tuesday at the Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater, turns out to have so many meanings that you soon stop counting. The most obvious and manifold secrets are the closely guarded tricks of Mr. Brown’s trade. Then there is the personal secret that Mr. Brown, 46, tells us early on that he kept hidden until he was 31: He’s gay. This turns out to be neither here nor there, except that it creates a casually confessional climate.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Sojourners & Her Portmanteau

May 16, 2017:

As seen onstage, the story of the arrival of blacks in America is almost always the story of slavery. Even immigrants who arrive willingly get here in despair, if not in chains, then in steerage. From Eugene O’Neill to August Wilson, “Fiddler on the Roof” to “In the Heights,” the newcomer’s drama is usually one of distress and deracination, and, most of all, the impossibility of ever going home.

That is not the immigration story Mfoniso Udofia tells in the extraordinary “Sojourners” and “Her Portmanteau,” two plays in a projected nine-part cycle about a family of Nigerians in the United States. Instead, Ms. Udofia gives us, in “Sojourners,” a heroine who leaves a relatively privileged life in Nigeria in the late 1970s to study biology at Texas Southern University. Like other members of her country’s “talented tenth,” Abasiama Ekpeyoung and her new husband, Ukpong, come to America not as immigrants but as temporary visitors, as the play’s title suggests. Once their studies are complete, they will immediately return “to refashion their country into a world power.”

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: The Marriage of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

May 14, 2017:

“The Marriage of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein” is a play not by Gertrude Stein but is a play by Edward Einhorn that is a play about marriage pretending to be a play about a play about a marriage.

Or so Stein, as imagined here by Mr. Einhorn, might say, if she were a particularly unhelpful theater critic. In the course of an 80-minute work that centers on the two women’s nuptials, Mr. Einhorn gives Stein, and often Toklas, dialogue that circles and careens before crash landing in unknown territory. “I am Gertrude,” says Gertrude, “pretending to be Alice so when I say Gertrude loves me I mean Gertrude loves Alice.”

Whether Stein really spoke that way — the way she wrote — is not something Mr. Einhorn concerns himself with. Rather, he is interested in borrowing her compulsively reiterative, continuous-present-tense prose style for its intrinsic delight. To that extent, this “Marriage” is a silly aural pleasure, like a child babbling or a suite of Looney Tunes. But to the extent this “Marriage” is not silly at all, but still pleasurable, Stein’s style also serves another purpose: as a marker for the ambiguity that a genius, or any dominant partner, is able to turn into a weapon against intimacy.

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