Author: Donna Herman

Not That Jewish

Monica Piper who is performing a solo show about her life called “Not That Jewish,” at New World Stages, really is all that Jewish. Even though her childhood next door neighbor in the Bronx, Carol Bengelsdorf, accuses her of being “not that Jewish” not because of her name, but because she catches her in a little (ahem) fib, about having gone to temple on Rosh Hashanah. Oy. So, because she is authentically Jewish, despite Carol Bengelsdorf’s slanderous and unfounded accusations, at age 7, little Monica has an existential crisis about whether or not she’s Jewish. I’m laughing and relating, mostly. As is the rest of the audience who is about three-quarters alta cocker, and one-quarter able to wear lace-up shoes.

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Kudos to Raelle Myrick-Hodges who makes her NYC directorial debut, and to Harrison David Rivers whose play “Sweet” is making it’s world premiere at the National Black Theater. And kudos also to the fine cast. Together they have created a pitch perfect world that is truthful, real, and obviously offered to us with thoughtfulness and love as a gift. Set in 1968, against an all-too-familiar backdrop of American life that includes intolerance, injustice, domestic violence and overseas war, we have a town out of time in fictional Juneervy, Kansas, where three young people have to decide whether the course of their lives will bring them into or out of the battleground. And will their choices make them happy?

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Tick, Tick…Boom!

The revival of Jonathan Larson’s “Tick, Tick…Boom!” by the Keen Company at the Theater Row Acorn Theater, is a charming, touching, relevant, well-performed piece of musical theater. An early autobiographical work by the late composer of the Pulitzer and Tony winning author of “Rent,” “Tick, Tick…Boom!” is the story of a struggling musical theater composer named, not coincidentally, Jonathan (Nick Blaemire). A constant ticking is both an opening sound effect and the sound he’s hearing in his head. Jon confesses in his opening monologue and song 30/90, that he’s beginning to fear the appellation “promising young composer” is about to become a misnomer. And with the advent of his 30th birthday the following week, the ticking is beginning to be followed by a distant “Boom!”

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A mixture of classical dance, opera, theater, circus, and vaudeville, Company XIV’s “Paris” is all spectacle. And much more than the sum of its parts. If you are a purist, looking for an authentic classical experience, this mash-up isn’t for you. Conceived, directed and choreographed by company founder Austin McCormick, the production is a love letter to his signature style, which he’s dubbed “Baroque Burlesque.” His dream in starting Company XIV, named after the French monarch Louis XIV known for the Palace of Versailles, is to create a kind of modern Moulin Rouge in New York City. There is a ton of talent both on the stage and behind the scenes here, but it’s a very adult entertainment, presented in an unusual manner. It is a completely unique, dazzling, riveting, mash-up of entertainment genres. Don’t expect porn and strippers, but do expect exquisite classically trained dancers and internationally known opera singers, aerialists, acrobats, pop singers, and actors performing at the top of their game in gender-bending roles with very few clothes on. But don’t expect to be titillated, expect to be enchanted.

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Storage Locker

By his own admission in the Playwright’s Note in the program, Jeff Stolzer got his inspiration for his play “Storage Locker,” from the reality TV show “Storage Wars.” Directed by Julian Mesri and presented by Iati Theater, the production resembles nothing so much as a train wreck. You are horrified watching it, glad you’re not involved, but you can’t walk away because the play is 70 minutes without an intermission.

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