Author: Donna Herman

Illyria

Illyria, written and directed by Richard Nelson, and currently enjoying its world premiere at The Public Theater, is a biographical look at The Public’s founder, Joseph Papp, and his struggles to establish the iconic New York Shakespeare Festival.  It’s a dramatic tale filled with ambition, creativity, genius, pride, politics, manipulation, celebrity and historically significant events from 60 years ago.  For theater and history buffs, Illyria feels like a corner seat in the room where it happened.

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Oedipus El Rey

Wow. After seeing Oedipus El Rey at The Public Theater, I don’t begrudge playwright Luis Alfaro his MacArthur Fellowship.  It’s also known as the “Genius” Grant, but the MacArthur folk don’t like it when you call it that.  In this case, however, it definitely applies.  Alfaro takes the Oedipus story and sets it in the modern day Chicano gang culture of Southern California which is something only he would do, and it works brilliantly. 

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After The Blast

Zoe Kazan couldn’t possibly have predicted our current state of nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea when she wrote After The Blast in the spring and summer of 2016. But its opening now in October of 2017 is a chilling reminder of the ways in which art can either mirror life or warn us of the dangers in our way.

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Lonely Planet

When Steven Dietz wrote Lonely Planet in 1993, the world was in the 12th year of the AIDS crisis, we didn’t have an effective drug regimen, and we were still mired in the belief that it was a “gay” disease. However, don’t confuse Lonely Planet with earlier works on the subject like Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart or Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Dietz has written a very quiet, personal play about friendship in the midst of disaster. And because, at its core, Lonely Planet is about the relationship between two people, it transcends the specific circumstances of  AIDS in the 1990’s, and feels very fresh and relevant today.

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Androboros (Villain of the State)

Did you know that the first play that was written and published in this country, in 1714 by Robert Hunter, a Colonial Governor of New York State, has never been performed until now?  That fact alone made me curious to see Peculiar Works Project’s production of Androboros (Villain of the State).  Well, that and the fact that it’s playing at the legendary Fraunces Tavern.  Which, subsequent to the play’s publication became General George Washington’s headquarters during the American Revolution. 

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