Cost of Living by Martyna Majok Wins Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Broadway’s April Avalanche. Week in NY Theater

“The Cost of Living” by Martyna Majok wins the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. “The Minutes by Tracy Letts and “Everybody” by Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins were selected as finalists.

This only begins the Season of Theater Awards,  which will heat up within the next few weeks. This month is already hot with openings —   six on Broadway within the next nine days.  I’ve already reviewed eight plays and musicals just in the past week (See below.).
 Also below: More on Majok and the Pulitzers, Tony nominations, new shows starring Elaine May, Anika Noni Rose, and Karl Marx;  the spectacular new season at the Signature, Patti LuPone starts a new feud, and a parody of Les Miz on Saturday Night Live.


Week in NY Theater Reviews

(Click on the titles to read the complete reviews and/or see all the production photographs)

Amar Ramasar and company in “Blow High, Blow Low.”


The new “Carousel” has the most glorious singing on Broadway, as well as thrilling choreography and picturesque sets and costumes that seem lifted from great American paintings by Thomas Eakins and Edward Hopper. It also has a surprisingly dark story whose last half hour has aged so poorly it offers a bizarre mix of the ugly and the precious.

Mlima’s Tale

Elephants might become extinct in 20 years because of poaching for their ivory, we learn from “Mlima’s Tale,” the unusual new play by Lynn Nottage, the Pulitzer prize winning playwright of Ruined and Sweat, which is staged poetically by Jo Bonney, with a memorable performance by Sahr Ngaujah as Mlima. When we first see him, Ngaujah is in a tense crouch, his left arm stretched in the air behind him, his right arm curled below him, like an especially fierce bowler – or a massive elephant with a mighty trunk…

King Lear

“King Lear” begins with a foolish ruler swayed by flattery, and ends with what Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Greg Doran calls “a strange, profound unease.” Shakespeare’s tragedy is, in other words, as relevant as ever. And Doran’s often visually arresting if rarely shattering production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater, which stars Antony Sher as Lear, is as good as any to remind us of the Bard’s insights into stormy times, and the self-delusions of the powerful.

Mean Girls

At the end of “Mean Girls,” Cady, the new girl in high school who tries so hard to fit in that she’s become phony and superficial, tells her classmates that she’s learned her lesson: “I wanted everyone to like me so bad, I kind of lost myself in the process.” Had Tina Fey and her collaborators learned the same lesson, they surely would not have turned her smart, funny 2004 movie into the overlong, ill-timed Broadway musical that is currently running at the August Wilson Theater.

Children of a Lesser God

The first Broadway revival of “Children of a Lesser God,” the award-winning, boundary-breaking 1980 play by Mark Medoff about the romance and eventual marriage between a hearing teacher at a school for the deaf and a deaf graduate, is the only show on Broadway whose creative team includes a “director of artistic sign language.” It is the only show on Broadway to project supertitles of the entire script at EVERY performance, and to schedule sign language interpreters regularly. And, above all, it is of course the only show that marks the stunning Broadway debut of Lauren Ridloff, who portrays Sarah Norman, whose language (like the actress’s) is American Sign Language.
These are reasons enough to welcome this production, and to consider it pioneering, even as the play it’s remounting feels dated.

Dutch Masters

n “Dutch Masters,” a new play written by Greg Keller and directed by Andre Holland, a young black man meets a young white man on the subway, with unexpected results. In “Dutchman,” the 1964 play by LeRoi Jones (soon to change his name to Amiri Baraka), a young black man meets a white woman on the subway, with unexpected results….“Dutchman” winds up a surreal and merciless indictment of White America. “Dutch Masters” is more realistic, and less harsh, but it too  requires a suspension of disbelief, and it too comments on race relations in America. It also adds an observation about class that feels exactly right – showing how race and class can sometimes be synonymous.

Miss You Like Hell

Miss You Like Hell,” a new musical by “In The Heights” book writer Quiara Alegría Hudes and singer-songwriter Erin McKeown, depicts the most American of adventures, the road trip. But this road trip takes place in the America of today, and so the discoveries and self-discovery are edged with some dark realities.
Daphne Rubin-Vega, portraying one of her most vibrant original characters since her Broadway debut in “Rent,” is Beatriz Santiago, a Mexican immigrant mother who…insists that her 16-year-old estranged daughter Olivia accompany her on a cross-country trip over the next seven days.

This Flat Earth

Lindsey Ferrentino’s drama takes a more oblique approach than most of the other plays about school shootings that I’ve seen — and I’ve seen too many…The details of the shooting that has the characters reeling are offered in disconnected bits and piece, and kept vague. Instead, “This Flat Earth” largely focuses on the small, subtly devastating (and sometimes amusing!) effects on a handful of characters in the aftermath.

The Week in Theater Awards

The Pulitzer citation for “Cost of Living” reads: “An honest, original work that invites audiences to examine diverse perceptions of privilege and human connection through two pairs of mismatched individuals: a former trucker and his recently paralyzed ex-wife, and an arrogant young man with cerebral palsy and his new caregiver.”

My review : In “Cost of Living,” an eye-opening play featuring a quartet of extraordinary performances, playwright Martyna Majok offers a tart retort to that sappy Barbra Streisand song about the luck of people who need people, and smashes more than one stereotype along the way…”
The play contained one of my favorite moments on stage in 2017:
Katy Sullivan, Victor Williams. In Cost of Living, Eddie gave his disabled wife Ani a bath, and decided to serenade her with a piano concerto. There is no piano in the bathroom, and Eddie never learned to play anyway, much as he wanted to. But he takes her paralyzed arm from the water, drapes it on the bathtub’s edge and plays her like a piano, synchronized with the radio broadcast.

Majok, a chronicler of new immigrants, has been a favorite of mine since I saw her play Iron Bound two years ago, so it’s nice to hear that TCG Books will be publishing “The Cost of Living,” as well as a collection of her work,  in the fall of 2019.

More on the finalists:

The Minutes, by Tracy Letts

Everybody, by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

SpongeBob SquarePants ensemble

Actors’ Equity pushes for creation of Tony Award categories honoring ensembles

The Week in New York Theater News

Mike Faist

Mike Faist’s final performance in Dear Evan Hansen will be May 13. Alex Boniello, who was the voice of Moritz in Spring Awakening, will join the company as Connor Murphy two days later.


Jay Armstrong Johnson will assume the role of Raoul in Phantom of the Opera beginning April 30th. He will be the 19th Broadway Raoul, the dashing vicomte vying for the heart of the innocent soprano, Christine.  Johnson, born in Fort Worth, is  a New York theater regular, a co-star in the Broadway revival of On The Town and such Off-Broadway fare as Working and Wild Animals You Should Know,

Legal squabbling over the Broadway adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird heats up.


Donald McKayle, a Tony-nominated choreographer who created classic works of modern dance and was the first African American man to direct and choreograph Broadway musicals, has died at 87.

In London to preform in a gender-switched version of Sondheim’s “Company,”, Patti LuPone sounded off on some of her favorite complaints, seemingly starting  a new feud, with Uma Thurman:” I don’t necessarily need to see film actors on stage, because they can’t. Not in my country they can’t….Can I just say, Uma Thurman in The Parisian Woman, anybody see it? Holy shit! I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

LuPone is in London to performed in  a gender-switched version of Sondheim’s “Company.”

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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