OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: How to Transcend a Happy Marriage

March 20, 2017: In 1969, two married couples took off their clothes and jumped into one accommodatingly wide bed. Thus did Paul Mazursky’s satirical film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice claim a little piece of cinematic immortality, while putting a knowing finger on a middle-class American pulse that throbbed with both lust and anxiety about the sexual revolution that was said to be sweeping the country. Ah, the clumsiness, the tortured soul-searching, the naïveté of those heady, experimental times. People today of course are far more at ease with their bodies and their vast potential for erotic self-expression. Why, just look at Paul and George and Michael and Jane, the uneasily swinging spouses of Sarah Ruhl’s How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, which opened on Monday night at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: The Terrifying

March 19, 2017: The unseen but very audible creature that runs rampant in The Terrifying — Julia Jarcho’s lively exhumation of the id within the stories we tell to scare ourselves — is said to have many fearsome qualities. There’s its fecal breath, for starters, and its tusks, which “are so rough as they catch on your guts.” But the description that leeches on to the memory after the lights have come up at the Abrons Arts Center, where this maiden production from Ms. Jarcho’s newly formed Minor Theater opened on Sunday night, is that of what it (or It) does to your mind. Once It has had its way with you, “your thoughts are just little wet brains in its mouth.”

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Joan of Arc: Into the Fire

March 15, 2017: Is it heresy to observe that saints are bores? O.K., maybe not in stained glass windows or old master paintings, where they’re frozen in transcendent agony amid instruments of torture. But as the focus of dynamic narratives, saints tend to be as tedious as most monomaniacs. They’re always so sure of their purpose and their destiny, so immune to argument and temptation. Where’s the suspense, the conflict, the drama in such single-mindedness?

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Sundown, Yellow Moon

March 14, 2017: To love is to worry in Sundown, Yellow Moon, Rachel Bonds’s quietly perceptive portrait of a family in simmering crisis at the McGinn/Cazale Theater. The characters in this beautifully acted production from Ars Nova and WP Theater, directed with probing sensitivity by Anne Kauffman, are united by a web of mutual concern that is as exasperating as it is reassuring.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: The Light Years

March 13, 2017: Theater artists, like many creators of fiction, share certain prerogatives with divinity. “Let there be light,” they say, and a universe radiates into existence on a dark stage. That dictum is the force behind the plot and presentation of The Light Years, the Debate Society’s leisurely and copiously detailed contemplation of the quest for illumination. But in the production that opened on Monday night at Playwrights Horizons, the process of bringing brightness to the world isn’t nearly as smooth as it is in the Book of Genesis.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Sweeney Todd (2017)

March 1, 2017: Spend the night with a world-famous serial killer! That’s the promise, proffered with the hopeful luridness of a penny dreadful title, behind the site-specific Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, which opened on Wednesday night at the Barrow Street Theater. It must be said that the Tooting Arts Club’s deftly, uh, executed stunt of a show, which originated in London, delivers on its ingenious, if limited, objective. As directed by Bill Buckhurst, this latest version of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s 1978 musical macabre puts its audience within throat-slashing distance of its sociopathic title character.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Linda

February 28, 2017: The afflictions of contemporary womanhood rain down like battering hailstones on the unhappy London of Penelope Skinner’s Linda, which opened on Tuesday night at the Manhattan Theater Club. It is a storm that never lets up.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: On the Exhale

February 19, 2017: Marin Ireland is a delicate conduit for raw emotions. Watching her deliver the hourlong monologue On the Exhale, Martín Zimmerman’s carefully wrought study of a mother undone by loss, you half expect her to crack and shatter before your eyes. With her pale skin and fine, Pre-Raphaelite features, this actress hardly seems built for the depths of anguish she delivers with such regularity and expertise on New York stages. Yet it’s the illusion she conveys of transparency — as if she were indeed made of spun glass — that lets us perceive so clearly a blinding darkness within.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose

February 7, 2017: If you are a theater fanatic, you know who George Rose was. If you were alive and going to New York theater in the 1970s and ’80s, you may have even seen him radiating contagious joy in My Fair Lady, as the saucy Alfred P. Doolittle relishing the prospect of “a little bit of luck.” Or matching wits with Kevin Kline in The Pirates of Penzance. Or winning his second Tony Award as the M.C. in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, his final show.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Othello: The Remix

November 16, 2016: Last time I checked, there were not a lot of laughs in Shakespeare’s tragedy about a Moorish general beset by the green-eyed monster. Yet giggles abound in “Othello: The Remix,” a clever and exuberantly performed hip-hop version of the play that opened on Wednesday at the Westside Theater. If the unlikely combination of hip-hop and Shakespeare rings a bell, it’s because the writer-composers, directors and stars of the show — known as the Q Brothers, GQ and JQ — have concocted this kind of madcap mash-up before. They had an Off Broadway hit back in 1999 with “The Bomb-itty of Errors,” adapted from — well, you can guess — and have written versions of several other Shakespeare plays.

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