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Photo: Sara Krulwich

OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Rancho Viejo

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December 6, 2016: Gary, a bearded bourgeois in his 60s who talks like a stoned surfer, has firm literary preferences. He likes “weird books,” he says, the kind that don’t grab your attention right away. “I mean you gotta have patience for these things, man,” he says. “They’re kinda like what I guess you’d call a slow burn?” Reading them, he continues, is akin to waiting and waiting in the ocean with your board for a big wave to come. That more or less describes the surprisingly pleasurable experience of the comedy in which Gary appears, Dan LeFranc’s sweet and scary, lackadaisical and hypnotic “Rancho Viejo,” which opened on Tuesday night at Playwrights Horizons.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: The Babylon Line

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December 5, 2016: Finding a voice as a writer often involves much throat clearing — false starts, rough drafts, crazy riffs and paralyzing stretches of analysis. Such self-consciousness occupies a lot (and I mean a lot) of stage time in “The Babylon Line,” Richard Greenberg’s new play, which opened on Monday at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. In a way, that’s appropriate. Mr. Greenberg’s latest work unfolds within a creative-writing class, taught by a not-so-young man, Aaron Port (Josh Radnor), who has an affliction he would really prefer you not define as writer’s block. Call him instead, he insists rather winningly, “a patient worker.” Unfortunately, authorial throat clearing — the kind that can try a theatergoer’s patience — seems to be the style as well as the subject of this unresolved comedy. Though it offers choice examples of the off-kilter lyricism that is Mr. Greenberg’s signature, “The Babylon Line” feels like a gifted writer’s notebook, stuffed with beguiling phrases and ideas still waiting to cohere into a compelling shape.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Penny Arcade: Longing Lasts Longer

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December 5, 2016: Even before you enter the auditorium at St. Ann’s Warehouse to see Penny Arcade’s solo show “Longing Lasts Longer,” the voice of the performer can be heard echoing through the lobby as she wanders the aisles engaging with the audience. I overheard a funny aria about her trials with the health care system even before I took my seat. Ms. Arcade, whose delivery suggests what might have happened if Phyllis Diller had fallen in with the Andy Warhol crowd (as indeed Ms. Arcade did), trains her stiletto wit on the gentrification of New York in this entertaining if rambling show. The city, she laments, was once a place of renewal, where creative people came to invent themselves anew, shedding the skins of conformity. “We were inspired and intoxicated by the palpable sense of freedom in the streets,” she recalls, having herself fled a Connecticut factory town. “Now,” she continues, “people come to New York and they want New York to be like where they’re from, the suburbs.” What’s worse, they no longer see the city as a beacon of possibility, except narrowly. “They don’t feel the need to reinvent themselves. They just think that they need to become successful and make a lot of money.”

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Dear Evan Hansen

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December 4, 2016: As the title character in “Dear Evan Hansen,” a lonely teenager who inadvertently becomes a social media sensation and a symbol of the kindness that is often cruelly absent in high school hallways, the marvelous young actor Ben Platt is giving a performance that’s not likely to be bettered on Broadway this season. What’s more, this gorgeous heartbreaker of a musical, which opened at the Music Box Theater on Sunday, has grown in emotional potency during its journey to the big leagues, after first being produced in Washington and Off Broadway. Rarely – scratch that — never have I heard so many stifled sobs and sniffles in the theater.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: A Bronx Tale: The Musical

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December 1, 2016: Sometimes plain old pasta with red sauce is just what the doctor ordered. “A Bronx Tale,” which opened at the Longacre Theater on Broadway on Thursday, might be called the musical-theater equivalent of that classic comfort food. It doesn’t break ground or dazzle with an unusual recipe — like, say, mixing rap and American history — but it delivers reliable pleasures with polished professionalism and infectious energy. Chazz Palminteri wrote the book, which was adapted from his solo play. More may know the material from the movie version, starring Mr. Palminteri and Robert De Niro, and directed by Mr. De Niro, who shares that chore here with the veteran Jerry Zaks. All told, Mr. Palminteri, who revived his original 1989 solo show on Broadway in 2007, has made a profitable career, and provided much entertainment to audiences, repackaging (albeit loosely) his upbringing in an Italian-American enclave in the Bronx.

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