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Thom Pain (based on nothing) starring Michael C. Hall: review and pics

Like a boxer faking out an opponent, Michael C. Hall as Thom Pain plays tricks on the audience in Will Eno’s one-character play….For Thom’s jousts and jabs to feel like something more than random cleverness and intermittent entertainment, the actor must somehow show us an interior life that’s seething, striving, bursting with sadness and anger and resentments that he’s trying to mask.
One might suppose that such seething could come easily to Michael C. Hall, who played a serial killer on cable TV for eight seasons. But Dexter was a doll (the series depicting his murders as morally justified and him as well-meaning.) There is less menace than master of ceremonies in Hall’s portrayal of Pain.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

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American Son: Pics and Review

While anxiously waiting in a Miami police station for word of what happened to her son Jamal, an educated African-American woman named Kendra (Kerry Washington) talks with her estranged white husband Scott (Steven Pasquale) about the nightmares she’s had over the years about Jamal – of “nooses and crosses,” but, far worse and far more often, “getting stopped by a cop.”

That nightmare has turned into Kendra’s reality in American Son, a timely if flawed drama whose power comes largely from Kerry Washington’s intense performance.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Torch Song on Broadway: Review and Pics

The 1982 Broadway production of Torch Song Trilogy, starring Harvey Fierstein as Arnold Beckoff, a sometime drag queen and gay Jewish romantic searching for love and acceptance, could be credited with having made history. But no such claim would be credible for the revival, renamed Torch Song, starring Michael Urie as Arnold and Mercedes Ruehl as his mother.  It’s just an entertainment now, unthreatening and largely unchallenging,…

But if Torch Song suffers in comparison to the spate of first-rate gay plays over the last few decades, and the excellent revivals over the past year, there’s no denying how witty and well-meaning it is. Many in the barrage of one-liners are still quite funny, and the strong performances of Urie and Ruehl in particular help make more palatable the artificial feel to many of the scenes.

Full Review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Matthew Murphy to see it enlarged.

The Waverly Gallery with Elaine May, Lucas Hedges: Pics, Review

Elaine May is back on a Broadway stage after more than 50 years, and making the most of it in The Waverly Gallery, Kenneth Lonergan’s meticulously observed, funny and sad play about a woman’s decline and its effect on her family. May is not alone. She is one of five stellar cast members, notably Lucas Hedges making a splendid Broadway debut. They turn this 18-year-old play into…if not required, certainly well-rewarded viewing. So does Lila Neugebauer in her overdue Broadway directorial debut.

But it is especially thrilling to watch May, who is herself 86 years old..

Full review on D C Theater Scene

Click on any photograph by Brigitte Lacombe to see it enlarged.

The Lifespan of a Fact with Daniel Radcliffe, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones: Pics, Review

I take “The Lifespan of a Fact” personally.
On the one hand, Cherry Jones, Bobby Cannavale and Daniel Radcliffe, are three of my favorite actors in the universe, performing in a  comedy directed with a light, fast touch by Leigh Silverman, who’s helmed much theater I’ve enjoyed (Harry Clarke, Sweet Charity, Chinglish.)  I’m even partial to the set designer, Mimi Lien, Tony Award winner for Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812…
On the other hand, the play purports to examine several serious and timely issues. John’s article is about a teen suicide. The debate between John and Jim is about the nature of truth, and what obligations literary nonfiction has towards factual accuracy…
I find The Lifespan of a Fact a slight play that simply doesn’t do full justice to the issues underneath the comedy.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Gloria A Life, Pics and Review. Gloria Steinem and the Women’s Movement.

Gloria Steinem herself came out in the last twenty minutes of Gloria: A Lifeto lead the “talking circle,” an unscripted conversation with the audience. This was the officially designated Act II of a moving, enlightening and inspiring show whose 100-minute Act I starred Christine Lahti in Emily Mann’s script about the life and work of the famous feminist, journalist, activist, co-founder of Ms. Magazine and one-time Playboy Bunny.

The presence of this Act II helps drive home how beside the point it would be to assess Gloria as if it were a conventional bio-drama. It isn’t. It’s half storytelling, half consciousness-raising — a support group in trying times. “Social justice movements start with people sitting in a circle, like this,” Lahti says at the outset, indicating the in-the-round stadium seating.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged and read the caption.

Mother of the Maid with Glenn Close: Review, pics

Genghis Khan had a mother; so did Amelia Earhart and Dwight Eisenhower. Perhaps Mother of the Maid, starring Glenn Close as the woman whom Joan of Arc called Ma, will start a trend of offering the maternal perspective on historical figures. It should: Jane Anderson’s play, in a wonderfully acted production at the Public Theater, is amusing, moving, incongruous, just plain odd and riveting. What may be most fascinating about it is that, as improbable as many of the scenes may appear, the play is rooted in the historical record.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.

Apologia with Stockard Channing: Review and Pics

In this well-acted, finely directed Off-Broadway production of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s 2009 play,  Stockard Channing portrays Kristin Miller, a long-time activist,  American expatriate and noted art historian who has entitled her recently published memoir Apologia.  Apologia is a word, she is quick to point out, that should not be confused with an apology. “It means a formal, written defense of one’s opinions or conduct,” she explains to the small gathering in her cottage in the English countryside to celebrate her birthday.

But her two sons (both impressively portrayed by Hugh Dancy)  feel she owes them an apology. They see her as having abandoned them when they were children. “I woke up one morning and realized that pretty much everything we are and everything we do is a response against you,” one of them says.  They are both furious that she doesn’t even mention them in her memoir.

Is Kristin’s idealism defensible; what are the personal costs of public idealism? That is a question that the playwright in effect asks in Apologia, but in many ways it’s the least interesting or worthwhile aspect of his witty and engaging play.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.

Girl From the North Country: Dylan Musical Pics and Review

Using 20 songs that Bob Dylan composed over half a century, playwright Conor McPherson has fashioned a slow, sad, elliptical and occasionally exquisite theater piece set in a run-down boarding house in Duluth, Minnesota, Dylan’s hometown, in 1934, seven years before Dylan was born.
The stories in “Girl From The North Country,” are not about Dylan. They focus on the desperate family that runs the boarding house, and the many struggling people around them. The show presents a harsh and familiar Dust Bowl Americana. But it does so in a way that recalls how Dylan tapped into Woody Guthrie – in homage and imitation, yes, but rearranged into something that can feel new and compelling. The odd pairing of McPherson’s scenes of hard luck lives with Dylan’s songs of yearning, delivered by a splendid 17-member cast, work better than you might expect, but not as well as you might have hoped.

Full review on DC Theater Scene

The Nap on Broadway: Pics, Review

How, one wondered, would British playwright Richard Bean, whose hilarious farce One Man, Two Guvnors made a star out of James Corden, create something as funny for Americans out of the British game of snooker?

He hasn’t, as it turns out. No, “The Nap,” Bean’s sophomore effort on Broadway, is not as soporific as its title suggests. It’s worse than that. The title actually has nothing to do with sleep; a nap is a term in snooker (which is the British version of pool) used for the coarse, fuzzy green surface of the snooker table. And The Nap is indeed coarse and fuzzy.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene