Of the eight shows I reviewed this past week, I probably reacted to two of them differently than I would have without the rise in antisemitism over the last six weeks.
About the Broadway revival of “Spamalot,” another critic wrote: “Equal-opportunity offensiveness — to gays, Jews, French, Finns and every kind of Briton — makes the show inoffensive to all.” But the French (and Finns) haven’t been the target of homicidal hate that Jews (and gays) have experienced both historically and at this very moment.
The Broadway transfer of “Harmony” provoked a more complicated reaction. I was thrilled by the show when it was presented last year by the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. But the Broadway production has pumped up the emotion, making tragedy feel closer to melodrama, rendering it less realistic, and thus less necessary right now.
The Week in New York Theater Reviews
The cast, featuring such comic royalty of the Rialto as Christopher Fitzgerald, Michael Urie and Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer, pulls off with aplomb the silliest and funniest bits … Like “The Book of Mormon,” “Spamalot” is an extravaganza that makes fun of its own extravagance, simultaneously spoofing and paying homage to classic Broadway musical theater. some of [the humor] hasn’t aged well, feeling less edgy and more uncomfortable…The aggressiveness of the humor somewhat reminded me of the implicit “can’t you take a joke?” bullying that routinely accompanies an outsider’s insensitive ethnic remark at your expense
“Harmony” tells the story of the Comedian Harmonists, an all-male German singing group hugely popular in Europe, who traveled to New York to make their Carnegie Hall debut in 1933, the year that Adolph Hitler came to power back home. This was a dilemma for them despite all their fans in Germany. Three of the six members of the group were Jewish…
The Ethel Barrymore on Broadway is three times the size, and it makes sense that the creative team would make things bigger – enlarge the sets, adding some elegant Art Deco touches, play up the slapstick. But they’ve also pumped up the emotion….Emotions…have been pushed to fever pitch on Broadway. And that heightening helped me to see a disjunction – a disharmony — between the two halves of “Harmony.” The stage performances by the singing group are wonderfully entertaining, a showcase for some greatly talented singers. The offstage drama feels as if it belongs in a different, less polished, play.
Jaja’s African Hair Braiding:, Digital Theater edition
When I saw it last month on Broadway (my review), the play offered a series of revelations — about the joyful if precarious lives of African immigrants in New York, and about Black women’s elaborate hair care needs and glories. There were a different series of revelations — about the perks and pitfalls of digital theater — when I saw it this week on my computer screen, via a company called the League of Live Stream Theater. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the perks from the pitfalls.
The story is not what’s most fresh or distinctive about “Hell’s Kitchen,” and enough of the details have been altered to turn Ali into a fictional character …Kecia Lewis, Shoshana Bean and Brandon Victor Dixon are the three veteran performers who give “Hell’s Kitchen” its juice –along with an ensemble that looks like New York, who execute Camille A. Brown’s energetic hip-hop flavored choreography. Full Review
we are never certain what happens in “Scene Partners,” John J. Caswell, Jr.’s ambitious, whimsical, confounding play…at Vineyard Theater in an elaborately staged production directed by Rachel Chavkin that relies heavily on pre-recorded videos and projections….The play is bolstered by a strong cast…Wiest with her Academy Awards of course, but she has also been mesmerizing on stage….But the solid production can’t completely compensate for the elusiveness of the script. Full Review
he Oklahoma-born Sparks and the Kentucky-born Shannon portray Didi and Gogo convincingly as Midwestern hobos, Sparks nearly unrecognizable beneath a bushy beard. They look like characters from “Grapes of Wrath.” This is probably not what Beckett had in mind….Still, the performers make their characters feel like real people; not easy. Unfortunately, real people are sometimes dull. Full Review
Clear away all of the warning-worthy and transgressive shenanigans in “Sad Boys in Harpy Land,” and Alex Tatarsky – performance artist, cabaret singer, and clown – offers a convoluted, fragmented, erudite adaptation of two German coming-of-age novels, connecting them, and herself, to the themes of self-loathing and inaction. But her seriousness is suspect, and it’s the shenanigans that make this show so weirdly captivating.
“A Good Day To Me Not To You” doesn’t really come into focus until afterward, when the kookiness in the first half yields to a heartbreaking story of a middle-aged woman trying to make up for the past.
The Week in New York Theater News
The entire text in the Atlantic Magazine of Anna Deavere Smith’s new play The Ghost of Slavery
A Father Stages the Unthinkable: Losing a Son in a School Shooting (NY Times). Manuel Oliver has a one-man show about the life and death of his son, Joaquin, who was killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
What a cast for Lincoln Center Theater’s production of Uncle Vanya! Adapted by Heidi Shreck, it is opening April 24: Steve Carell making his Broadway debut as Vanya, William Jackson Harper as Astrov, Jayne Houdyshell as Mama Voinitski, Mia Katigbak as Marina, Alfred Molina as Alexander Serabryakov, Alison Pill as Sonya, Anika Noni Rose as Yelena.
Jeremy Strong (Succession) and Michael Imperioli (Sopranos) star in new version of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, adaped by Amy Herzog, directed by Sam Gold, opening on Broadway’s Circle in the Square March 18
Tammy Faye, a musical by Elton John about the TV evangelist with the outsized personality and distinctive eye makeup, announces for Broadway in the 2024-2025 Season. (All details to come at a later date)
The Week’s Theater Video
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