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BROADWAY REVIEW: Derren Brown: Secret

September 15, 2019: Yet every time I visit the dapper Mr. Brown, I leave in a lighter, less-polluted mood — brainwashed in the most positive sense of the term. That’s because this British stage performer (who is also a television star and best-selling author across the Atlantic) doesn’t use his gifts to assert his dominance over those of us who are telepathically challenged. Well, O.K., maybe he does a little bit. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to hold a big stage by himself and leave us all slack-jawed at his ability to do things that he made us swear not to talk about. (His may be a benign presence, but I still wouldn’t want to cross him.) He insists, though, that he is no oracle — and he consults the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines such a being as infallible. His persona is pointedly that of a fallible everyman, who has simply trained himself to observe his fellow humans more carefully than most of us do.

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MOST RECENT REVIEWS

BROADWAY REVIEW: Betrayal

September 5, 2019: How can a naked space seem so full? Feelings furnish the stage in the resplendently spare new production of Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal,” which opened on Thursday night at the Bernard Jacobs Theater, and they shimmer, bend and change color like light streaming through a prism. Directed by Jamie Lloyd — and acted with surgical precision by Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox — this stripped-down revival of Pinter’s 1978 tale of a sexual triangle places its central characters under microscopic scrutiny, with no place to hide. Especially not from one another, as everybody is on everybody else’s mind, all the time. They are also all almost always fully visible to the audience. This British version is the most merciless and empathic interpretation of this much performed work I’ve seen, and it keeps returning to my thoughts in piercing shards, like the remnants of a too-revealing dream. I had heard good things about this “Betrayal” when it debuted in London earlier this year, but I didn’t expect it to be one of those rare shows I seem destined to think about forever.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Sea Wall / A Life

August 8, 2019: If it wasn’t the absolute worst time someone’s electronic device could have gone off during “Sea Wall,” Simon Stephens’s exquisite one-act monologue that’s part of a Broadway double bill, it still might well have sabotaged the show. The British actor Tom Sturridge had held us entranced all the way to the pin-drop quiet of the play’s delicate final seconds when a robotic voice intruded from the orchestra of the Hudson Theater to deliver — what was it, an Amber Alert? A less masterful performer, or one of stormier temperament, might have let the audience’s reflexive anger overwhelm the moment. Without breaking character, Mr. Sturridge chose a smarter, more graceful course. “It’s O.K.,” he said gently, definitely to us but maybe also partly to himself, and the words were a balm: soothing the room and restoring the spell he’d cast, almost as soon as it had been shattered. He paused a long while, then resumed the play’s last little wordless bit, a coda now. Witnessing such a coup of craft and professionalism is part of the reason we go to live theater, where the best actors are sharply attuned to whatever is happening in the room. And that’s very much the case with “Sea Wall/A Life,” the program of twinned monologues that opened on Thursday night. Its second half, Nick Payne’s “A Life,” is performed by Jake Gyllenhaal.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Moulin Rouge! The Musical

July 25, 2019: This one’s for the hedonists. All you party people should know that the Al Hirschfeld Theater has been refurbished as an opulent pleasure palace, wherein decadence comes without hangovers. That’s where the euphoric “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” opened on Thursday night in a shower of fireworks, confetti and glittering fragments of what feels like every pop hit ever written. Inspired by the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film and directed with wicked savvy by Alex Timbers, this “Moulin Rouge” is a cloud-surfing, natural high of a production. It has side effects, for sure, including the vertigo that comes from having your remembrance of songs past tickled silly and the temporary blockage of any allergies to jukebox musicals. But for its plump, sleek two-and-a-half hours of stage time, “Moulin Rouge” — which stars a knockout Karen Olivo, with Aaron Tveit and Danny Burstein doing their best Broadway work to date — has the febrile energy you may associate with the wilder parties of your youth, when gaudy nights seemed to stretch into infinity.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune

May 30, 2019: Everyone wants to hear Audra McDonald sing. So it’s a clever touch that Arin Arbus’s production of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” — which despite the Debussy in its title is not a musical — gives Ms. McDonald a huge aria right off the bat. More of a duet, really, though her co-star, Michael Shannon, isn’t so much singing as grunting. That’s because “Frankie and Johnny,” which opened on Thursday at the Broadhurst Theater, begins with the sounds of Frankie (Ms. McDonald) and Johnny (Mr. Shannon) making love: “noisy, ecstatic and familiar,” as the script, by Terrence McNally, puts it. Familiar, that is, if you’re used to Puccini orgasms. It could have been a stumbling block for this touching revival of the 1987 play that Ms. McDonald (a six-time Tony Award winner) and Mr. Shannon (twice nominated for an Oscar) are hardly the dowdy, downtrodden types Mr. McNally calls for. Unlike Kathy Bates and F. Murray Abraham, who starred in the first production (Kenneth Welsh soon took over as Johnny), they arrive onstage with fabulous, shiny auras.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Beetlejuice

April 25, 2019: The dead lead lives of noisy desperation in “Beetlejuice,” the absolutely exhausting new musical that opened on Thursday at the Winter Garden Theater. This frantic adaptation of Tim Burton’s much-loved 1988 film is sure to dishearten those who like to think of the afterlife as one unending, undisturbed sleep. Because as directed by a feverishly inventive Alex Timbers, and starring Alex Brightman as the manic ghoul of the title, this production proposes that not being alive just means that you have to try harder — a whole lot harder — than you ever did before. Otherwise, you’ll wind up invisible, with nary a soul to acknowledge your starry self. And in today’s world of chronic self-advertising, this may be the true fate worse than death.

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