With two weeks left in 2018, it’s a time for assessments of the year in New York theater, for better and for worse.
“The Ferryman” was the most popular play or musical among critics whose top 10 lists for 2018 are featured below, followed by “Angels in America” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” Other shows that made at least four critics’ lists: “Dance Nation,” “Three Tall Women,” and “Oklahoma!” It’s worth pointing out that five of these six favorite are straight plays; the most popular musical among critics was a re-conceived revival staged in Brooklyn.
The Week in New York Theater Reviews
“Nassim,” a play by Iranian playwright and performer Nassim Soleimanpour, is deliberately disorienting, both for the audience, who’s told virtually nothing about the show beforehand, and for the “guest” actor, who is different for each performance…But if “Nassim” is an example of what you can call trickster theater, with lots of teasing, it winds up not just clever, but charming, and even warm-hearted. And it offers several lessons, both literal and emotional, that illustrate how language can serve as both barrier and bridge between strangers.
In Erin Mallon’s sweet, modest play, an unlikely rooftop friendship develops between a 75-year-old man and a nine-year-old girl.
Richard Masur is terrific (as always) in portraying Bernard, who sits on the roof of his home, dividing his time between drinking and bird watching. Rory, a talkative, precocious nine-year-old (portrayed by the precocious fifth-grader Eve Johnson), suddenly appears on the roof of the house next door, determined to engage her grumpy neighbor against his will.
At the very end of their Christmas show, running through December 30th at the Imperial Theater on Broadway, Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken together sing the 19th century Christmas carol “O Holy Night.” Their duet is so lovely and powerful it seems to pierce the heavens.
It would be mean-spirited and inaccurate to say the two hours preceding it feel like a trip through hell. The feeling is more like a trip to the moon, since so much of “Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show” – which is the show’s official, and alarming, title – is made of cheese.
“Springsteen on Broadway” begins with The Boss explaining what it takes to play before “80,000 screaming rock n roll fans,” but the two-hour show is mostly a lesson in intimacy. This was true when he performed solo for 900 or so nightly audience members in Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theater, where it was supposed to run for just eight weeks, but closed last night after 14 months. It’s even more of a lesson, paradoxically, now that it’s playing for some 100 million streaming subscribers
The Week in New York Theater News
After 15 years, Avenue Q will close in April. The musical about young adult puppets trying to make their way in the world began Off-Broadway in 2003, transferred to Broadway, won Tonys, and then moved back to Off-Broadway (at New World Stages ) in 2009.
There’s a bright golden haze back on Broadway! The sixth revival of Oklahoma!, this one the hip production from St. Ann’s Warehouse, will transfer to Broadway’s Circle in the Square opening April 7. The corn’s not as high in this version.
The Mother by Florian Zeller (author of The Father) about a woman adrift in middle-age, featuring
Isabelle Huppert, Chris Noth, Justice Smith, and Odessa Young will be produced at the Atlantic Theater Company, February 20 to April 7, opening March 11
Roman Banks,20, has been hired as the understudy for Connor Murphy, Jared Kleinman…and Evan Hansen.
“I’ve gotten endless amounts of messages from people of color, both young and old, telling me how much it means to them that I’ll be playing the role…”
One theater marketer discovers: Theater attendance drops in the three weeks before an election,
Congratulations to the theater nominees of the 9th annual #clivebarnesaward:
Award announced Feb 11 pic.twitter.com/B1aAd9lYi1
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) December 12, 2018
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) December 14, 2018
New York Theater Workshop is putting on a deliberately provocative play, Slave Play, and people are provoked. Apparently egged on by an article in MediaTakeOut (“the most visited African-American news network”) that attacks Jeremy O.Harris’s debut Off-Broadway play, the fury has gone viral on Twitter. It’s not clear that the most vociferous of critics have seen the play or even read the reviews that explain that the slave-master sexual couplings in the first half of the play turn out to be role-playing by 21st century interracial couples as part of their therapy.
It’s so surreal to me that after two weeks of having some of the most enriching and exciting convos with black people who felt seen, affirmed, and exhilarated by Slave Play. A couple loud idiots saw a post on MediaTakeOut and have decided to get fully psychotic in my mentions.
— Jeremy O. Harris (@jeremyoharris) December 14, 2018
Earlier this year, San Francisco’s Z Space launched its inaugural Problematic Play Festival. “I was much more receptive to plays that might have made me hesitant or offended me in different circumstance,” write Maggie Gaw, a literary manager who helped select scripts for the festival.
Betty White, who’s been an entertainer for 80 years, explains why she’s never performed on Broadway. (they actually put this as a refrigerator magnet for sale)
Rest in Peace
Charles Weldon, 78, artistic director, Negro Ensemble Company. He was also an actor in such films as Serpico and Malcolm X.
Jazz singer Nancy Wilson, 81, whose albums included “Broadway — My Way”