Author: Donna Herman

The Show-Off

The Show-Off by George Kelly (uncle of actress Grace Kelly) was a big hit in 1924 when it premiered on Broadway.  It’s about a self-aggrandizing braggart, Aubrey Piper (Ian Gould) who is a liar and a fop, and holds down a lowly clerk job at the Pennsylvania Railroad.  He meets and woos the daughter of a plain spoken, working-class North Philadelphia family, who are aghast that she has fallen for this clearly vain, shallow, idiot.  I have to admit a feeling of kinship with the Fisher family of North Philly.  I’m perplexed.

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The Treasurer

The Treasurer by Max Posner, currently at Playwrights Horizons, is a small gem of a play.  Dark, funny, and disturbing, the play seems too insightful for a 28-year old to have been its author.  But then, the playbill notes and opening monologue by the main character reveal that the subject is autobiographical, so it makes sense. 

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Anybody

I saw Anybody: An Improvised Historical Hip-Hopera presented by North Coast at the Connelly Theater on the 2nd night of its 4 night, 5 performance run there, and I wish I had the next two nights free to see it for the rest of its run.  Why not? They take audience suggestions for the subject of the biographical hip-hop musical that they completely improvise on the spot – music, choreography, dialog and all – so it will be different every show.  And the talent on stage is off the chain.  There was a packed audience who loved every minute.

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On the Shore of the Wide World

I’m not quite sure why the Atlantic Theater Company chose to stage this revival of Simon Stephens’ 2005 work On the Shore of the Wide World.  It’s not a bad play, it’s just…average, and overlong.  It certainly isn’t up to what we expect from Mr. Stephens after his two latest productions on this side of the pond, Heisenberg and The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night.  What saves this production is the really fine acting by the entire cast.

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Fucking A

Fucking A feels more like a Brechtian drama than a riff on an iconic piece of 19th Century Romantic Literature, Hawthorne’s “The Scarlett Letter.” The only thing they have in common is a woman named Hester with an A on her chest. Despite the use of Brechtian devices, Ms. Parks’ voice is all her own here.  And a grim one it is.  Although there are some wonderful, much needed comic moments – like Butcher’s (Raphael Nash Thompson) monologue cataloguing the impossibly lengthy, silly transgressions of his daughter – Fucking A is not for the faint-hearted.  Although the mind-numbingly cruel and heartless society drawn here might have seemed exaggerated in 2000 when Ms. Parks wrote the play, unfortunately it doesn’t feel that far away now.  You don’t have to go as far as Myanmar and the situation with the Rohingya, just google Charlottesville, Virginia.

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