BROADWAY REVIEWS

BROADWAY REVIEW: Disgraced

Disgraced

October 23, 2014: “Bon appétit!” The festive phrase announcing the start of a meal sounds more like a bell signaling another round in a prizefight when it is chirped by Gretchen Mol, playing a hostess whose dinner party has become a verbal jousting tournament in Ayad Akhtar’s terrific, turbulent drama Disgraced. By this point in the play, which opened at the Lyceum Theater on Thursday night, the nerves of everyone settling down to eat have been scraped raw. It’s hard to concentrate on your fennel and anchovy salad when the conversation over cocktails has descended into a fierce debate about the rise of Islamic terrorism and the basic tenets or the meaning of the Quran. Mr. Akhtar’s play, which was first seen in New York in 2012 and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, has come roaring back to life on Broadway in a first-rate production directed by Kimberly Senior that features an almost entirely new cast. In the years since it was first produced here, the play’s exploration of the conflicts between modern culture and Islamic faith, as embodied by the complicated man at its center — a Pakistani-born, thoroughly assimilated New Yorker — have become ever more pertinent. The rise of the so-called Islamic State, and the news that radicalized Muslims from Europe and the United States have joined the conflict raging in Syria and Iraq, brings an even keener edge to Mr. Akhtar’s engrossing drama. At first blush, Amir (Hari Dhillon) seems to be in admirable possession of an American-dream life. He’s a lawyer specializing in mergers and acquisitions, which explains the immaculate apartment with a terrace to make any New Yorker salivate. His wife, Emily (Ms. Mol), is a painter on track to be included in a new show at the Whitney. Emily has begun a portrait of Amir inspired by a Velazquez painting of his Moorish assistant. An incident with a waiter at a restaurant the night before brought Amir’s ethnic heritage to the fore, and Emily has become intrigued by the gap “between what he was assuming about you, and what you really are”: words that will prove eerily prophetic as the drama unfolds.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: On The Town

On The Town

October 16, 2014: And now, a show about sex that you can take the whole family to: the kids, the grandparents, even your sister the nun. That idea may sound kind of creepy, or (worse) dreary. But I assure you that the jubilant revival of On the Town, which opened Thursday night at the Lyric Theater, is anything but. On the contrary, this merry mating dance of a musical feels as fresh as first sunlight as it considers the urgent quest of three sailors to find girls and get, uh, lucky before their 24-hour shore leave is over. If there’s a leer hovering over On the Town, a seemingly limp 1944 artifact coaxed into pulsing new life by the director John Rando and the choreographer Joshua Bergasse, it’s the leer of an angel. The best-known song from this show — which has music by Leonard Bernstein, with book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green — describes its setting as “a helluva town.” But the town in question — “New York, New York,” if you didn’t know — feels closer to heaven here.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: It’s Only A Play

It's Only A Play

October 9, 2014: Big names drop like hailstones in Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play, the kind that look like diamonds from a distance and then melt away before you know it. As a star-struck young man observes at the beginning of this deliriously dishy revival, which opened Thursday night at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater (and is about a tense opening night of a play at the Ethel Barrymore Theater), “This place is crawling with famous people.” He’s referring to a noisy party that’s happening downstairs. But he might as well be talking about the comedy in which he appears, which is directed with gusto by Jack O’Brien. One of the reasons that It’s Only a Play is already a gold-mining hit is its unblushing willingness to play the fame card as an ace that can’t be beaten. As any of the pseudo-cynical, theater-obsessed characters in this work from the 1980s — which has been strategically rewritten by Mr. McNally — might point out, “That’s Broadway today, baby.” The list of celebrities starts with the show’s cast members, whose biographies glitter with Tonys, Emmys, a box-office-bonanza film franchise and an Oscar. They include Broadway’s most popular bromancers, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, along with Stockard Channing, Megan Mullally (of Will and Grace), Rupert Grint (of the Harry Potter movies) and F. Murray Abraham. Then there are the many, many other well-known names that pepper the dialogue to keep it from tasting bland.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

October 5, 2014: Ever had one of those days in the city when you feel like you forgot to put your skin on? Sure you have. It happens when you haven’t slept, or you drank too much the night before, or you’ve been brooding over bad news. All your senses, it seems, have been heightened to a painful acuity; your nerve endings are standing on guard. And every one of the manifold sights and sounds of urban life registers as a personal assault. You’re a walking target in a war zone, and that subway ride that awaits you looms like a descent into hell. Such a state of being is conjured with dazzling effectiveness in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which opened on Sunday night at the Ethel Barrymore Theater. Adapted by Simon Stephens from Mark Haddon’s best-selling 2003 novel about an autistic boy’s coming-of-age, this is one of the most fully immersive works ever to wallop Broadway. So be prepared to have all your emotional and sensory buttons pushed, including a few you may have not known existed. As directed by Marianne Elliott (a Tony winner for the genius tear-jerker War Horse), with a production that retunes the way you see and hear, Curious Incident can be shamelessly manipulative.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: The Country House

The Country House

October 2, 2014: Blythe Danner’s voice makes its entrance before she does. “Da-ahr-ling!” it cries out from the wings in that familiar italicizing rasp, and a gratified ripple of recognition runs through the audience. The applause begins even before Ms. Danner’s willowy form flutters into view. That “darling” is the first word heard in The Country House, Donald Margulies’s motley valentine to the artists of the stage and the angst of Anton Chekhov, which opened on Thursday night at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater. And the endearment, especially as Ms. Danner pronounces it, feels like a fitting prologue for a play that considers the Broadway star as a vanishing species. Uttered with the proper authority, “darling” is a weapon, a shield and a good-luck charm for someone like Ms. Danner’s character, Anna Patterson, the kind of glamour-kissed actress whose name on a marquee would once have guaranteed lines around the block. Not these days, though. As Anna says, through clenched teeth: “There are no Broadway stars, dear. Not anymore. Oh, there are stars on Broadway, but they’re not Broadway stars.”

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BROADWAY REVIEW: You Can’t Take It With You

You Can't Take It With You

September 28, 2014: The only downside to the unconditional upper called You Can’t Take It With You, which wafted open last night at the Longacre Theater, is that it may strain previously underused muscles around your mouth. That can happen when you spend two-and-a-half hours grinning like an idiot. A lot of shows can make you laugh. What’s rare is a play that makes you beam from curtain to curtain. Such is the effect of Scott Ellis’s felicitous revival of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s 1936 comedy about one improbably happy family during the Great Depression, which stars a haloed James Earl Jones as the wise old leader of the clan. This is, frankly, surprising news to me. Though it won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, the very mention of You Can’t Take It With You is known to elicit shivers of revulsion among people who saw or appeared in high school productions.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Love Letters

Love Letters

September 18, 2014: The dying art of putting pen to paper to exchange news is being celebrated on Broadway this fall. Love Letters, A. R. Gurney’s durable epistolary play, in which two actors sit on comfortable chairs onstage and read from the lifelong correspondence between a man and a woman from the East Coast upper crust, has made it to the big time, commercially speaking. A rotating cast of stars, beginning with Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow, will be taking the stage of the Brooks Atkinson Theater, where the production opened Thursday night under the expert direction of Gregory Mosher, to remind us that before emails and texts, before emoticons and emojis and Facebook and Instagram, people communicated their fondest hopes, their casual observations and their lame jokes on paper, with pen or pencil or perhaps a typewriter, and then stuffed the results into quaint things called mailboxes.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: This Is Our Youth

This Is Our Youth

September 11, 2014: Just watch these bodies in motion: loping, flying, dancing, vamping and writhing at an altitude known only to the permanently high and perpetually crashing. The acrobatics being performed in Anna D. Shapiro’s sensational, kinetically charged revival of Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth, which opened on Thursday night in a marijuana haze at the Cort Theater, aren’t anything like those you’d find at the Cirque du Soleil. But they’re every bit as compelling, and probably (painfully) a whole lot closer to your own experience. As brought to thin-skinned, full-blooded life by Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin and Tavi Gevinson, the three privileged and desperate young characters in Mr. Lonergan’s 1996 play exist in a state of unending free fall. And a studio apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan — designed by Todd Rosenthal with an awareness of the big city beyond — starts to seem as vast and scary as outer space. You may remember that this is what it feels like to be on the cusp of adulthood with a whole wide world waiting to eat you up. Though first performed nearly two decades ago, and set in the early 1980s, This Is Our Youth hasn’t dated in the usual way of portraits of bright and sullen young things banging their heads against the walls of a society that doesn’t understand them. That’s because for all its period-specific references, Mr. Lonergan never relies merely on surface details to define his characters’ uncomfortable place in time.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Cabaret

cabaret

April 24, 2014: Hot diggity dachshund, it’s old home week on the campus at Weimar Berlin, otherwise known as the Kit Kat Klub. And if we take off our glasses and squint, we can pretend that life is just as divinely, dangerously decadent as it was when we were all 16 years younger. Why, here’s that adorably creepy M.C., a little softer around the jaw, maybe (aren’t we all?), but still such a cutup. Look at him pretending to have sex with the school slut. (Or one of them; there were so many.) And isn’t that Sally Bowles over there in the pink boa? Looking good, Sal; love the platinum bob. But why so uptight? Don’t forget what you always said: “Life is ... .” Uh, what was it you said again? A little more than 16 years after it first opened, and only a decade after it closed, it feels as if the popular Roundabout Theater Company production of Cabaret never left Studio 54, where it reopened on Thursday night.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Hedwig & the Angry Inch

hedwigdidhe

April 22, 2014: Do not be alarmed by recent reports that Neil Patrick Harris, an irresistibly wholesome television presence, has fallen deeply and helplessly into the gap that separates men from women, East from West, and celebrity from notoriety. There’s no need to fear for his safety, much less his identity. Quite the contrary. Playing an “internationally ignored song stylist” of undefinable gender in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Mr. Harris is in full command of who he is and, most excitingly, what he has become with this performance. That’s a bona fide Broadway star, the kind who can rule an audience with the blink of a sequined eyelid.

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