Front Row “Center Pieces” for 2016-2017 Season

Our favorites from the 2016-2017 season.
By Tulis McCall Casey Curtis, Sarah Downs, Stanford Friedman, Holli Harms, Michael Hillyer, Elise Marenson, Massimo Iacoboni

 

Photo: Carole Rosegg

Best ridiculous, lurid, pulpy show
that doesn’t involve watching news
about Trump:
The Artificial Jungle

Photo: Joan Marcus

Best actress to return to a role
after a gap of 20 or more years:
Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard

Photo: Joan Marcus

Best Pulitzer Prize winning play to be
named for a bodily secretion: Sweat.

Photo: Joan Marcus

Best Ensemble work: If I Forget

Photo: Jeremy Daniels

Best play adapted from Kid’s book that is not about
a boy named Harry:
The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson Musical

Keith A. Wallace

Best Play by an actorvist: The Bitter Game

Photo: Joan Marcus

Best play with a matinee idol leading man and pratfalls: Present Laughter

Photo: Shashwat Gupta

Best play of the Bible “behind the scenes:” The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

Nastrovya!

Best combination of fear, loathing and vodka: Drunkle Vanya

Photo: Davidawa Photography

Best ‘buddy’ play about two men who are definitely not buddies: Jonah and Otto

 

Nathan The Wise, at the Classic Stage Company.  What if the three great religions of the world actually respected and tolerated each other? This classic play is an impassioned plea for religious tolerance, and its relevance to modern life couldn’t be clearer.  F. Murray Abraham’s deeply felt characterization in the title role was fun to watch, as well as quite moving. Indecent.  Paula Vogel’s beautiful and emotionally shattering new play at the Cort Theatre is a rare example of playwright and director working in perfect symbiosis. Vogel and Rebecca Taichman work their transporting magic in plain sight and without any apparent help from a big Broadway budget, relying instead upon an excellent company of actors, a devastating story, and their own imaginative sense of stagecraft.
Herb Alpert and Lani Hall at the Café Carlyle. Truly, you can only do this in New York. I mean, step out of your cab and take your table at a café and there’s Herb Alpert performing. He is now in his early eighties and performs effortlessly, with the bearing and demeanor of a man thirty years younger. His wife of forty some years, Lani Hall, the lead vocalist on classic hits like “Fool On The Hill,” “Going Out Of My Head” and “Never Say Never Again,” joined him at the microphone.  Only in New York, kids, and only at the Carlyle. Sunday In The Park With George.  Featuring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford, a stellar supporting cast composed of veterans like Robert Sean Leonard and Ruthie Ann Miles, as well as Sondheim’s achingly beautiful musical score, in a pared-down concert version staged with rigorous simplicity by Sarna Lapine in front of an onstage orchestra. As good as it gets, a production so exceptional, so overwhelming, you might be lucky enough to see something like it once, maybe twice in a lifetime.

A Dolls House Part 2

A Doll’s House Part 2; Lauri Metcalfe; Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Sam Gold’s direction pulls these extraordinary cast together into an ensemble that summons the Spirits of the Small Moments to the table to create a banquet. This is a feast all around. A Doll’s House Part 2 is a reminder of why theatre – or art itself – is, at its best, a life altering experience. It reminds us that Walt Whitman wasn’t kidding when he wrote:

“you are here—that life exists and identity,
… the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

This is the sort of play that makes us remember we are alive.

 

The Whirligig

Photo by Monique Carboni.

– Hamish Linklater knows from relationships. In The New Group’s The Whirligig now at Pershing Square Signature Center, he lays them out like a card shark fanning a deck

 

 

 

 

Church and State

Church and State; Photo by Russ Rowland

I went to see a “seriously funny new comedy” — that’s what the press release said.  Seventy-eight minutes later,  the actors were taking bows before an enthusiastic audience and my mascara is all over my face, what with the weeping and the wiping that preceded the curtain call.

 

Venus

Photo by Joan Marcus

For those of you looking for a fluffy night out at the theatre, where all you have to do is sit back and bask in the good work bestowed upon you by others – you are directed to swan right past the entrance to Venus at Signature Theatre and go directly to the bar.

 

 

 

CagneyThe reason you want to see Cagney, before it closes in May, comes in a compact package busting with a sparkle that nearly knocks you over.  Fortunately you are sitting down when Robert Creighton arrives on the stage as James Cagney.  The unfortunate part is that you will want to be leaping out of your seat before the performance concludes, because Creighton is such a smooth dancer that he makes it look easy.  This makes you think you could probably do it just as well. This probably not true.

Heisenberg

Photo by Joan Marcus

Simon Stephens’ remarkable Heisenberg generates all the potency and disarming immediacy on Broadway that it conjured off Broadway.

 

 

 

Vietgone

Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Look! Up on the Manhattan Theatre Club stage! It’s a love story! No, it’s a comedy! No, it’s a rap musical! No, It’s a live graphic novel! NO! It’s the New York premiere of “Vietgone” by playwright Qui Nguyen. Part playful, part dead serious, Qui Nguyen, born in America to two Vietnamese refugee parents, takes dead aim at both Baby Boomers and Millennials alike in his innovative new work and hits both targets.

 

Oslo

Oslo LCT 3-17 2328 Oslo By J.T. Rogers Directed by Bartlett Sher 3/22/17 Lincoln Center Theater, Vivian Beaumont, Broadway Premiere Scenic Design: Michael Yeargan Costume Design: Catherine Zuber Lighting Design: Donald Holder Projection Design: 59 Projections Photo Credit: T Charles Erickson © T Charles Erickson Photography tcepix@comcast.net

Photo Credit: T Charles Erickson

Everything about Oslo is improbable — not least, the notion of an entertaining tale of Mideast peace negotiations.

 

 

 

 

We were honored and fascinated by the creative thinking and process of Andy Walmsley, top theater and TV scenic designer. Here is Elise Marenson’s interview with Mr. Walmsley.

Author: Stanford Friedman

With an MLS in Library Science from Rutgers and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia, Stan’s published works range from the technical to the abstract. He has written cover stories and reportage for Library Journal, obituaries for The Times of London, over 200 cookbook reviews for Publishers Weekly, and dozens of TV and theater reviews for New York Press. Prior to his current career, he worked a variety of theatrical odd jobs ranging from clerk at the Drama Book Shop to a roving Renaissance festival bloodletter to Special Effects Technician for the original Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors. Follow him on Twitter: @BroadwayCrit and Show-Score.

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