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John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons on Broadway: Review, Pics, Video

The ushers are wearing “Ghetto Scholar” sweatshirts in Studio 54, where for his sixth solo show John Leguizamo stands in front of a blackboard and lectures on the history, politics, culture and demographics of the 70 million Latinos in the United States. But Leguizamo is too much of an anarchic comic spirit, master mimic and candid memoirist to be merely erudite. “Latin History for Morons” exists on three planes – fascinating nuggets of actual history mixed with political commentary, eclectic comic shtick, and a funny, tender story of the performer’s efforts to connect with his family.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Leguizamo gives the keynote speech at the Immigration Arts Summit, July 17, 2017

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The Band’s Visit on Broadway: Review, Pics and Videos

What happens when a lovely, low-key musical based on an offbeat Israeli film moves from Off-Broadway to a Broadway theater five times its size?

You get the same widely acclaimed show – with David Yazbek’s exquisite Middle Eastern score and delicious lyrics, a spot-on cast (12 of 14 the same) led by the incomparable Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk, a story adapted by Itamar Moses that’s both doleful and droll – plus better acoustics, and better accents.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene 
Click on any photograph by Matthew Murphy to see it enlarged.

Illyria Review and Pics: Scrappy Joe Papp

Joe Papp, subject of Illyria

Before Hamilton, A Chorus Line, Hair; before Joseph Papp built the Public Theater into an institution, he was faced with a fight for survival of his newfound free Shakespeare in Central Park that he seemed destined to lose.

That’s the story in Illyria, a play written and directed by Richard Nelson, who tells his well-researched story in the same low-key, oblique and unorthodox way that he employed in his two play series, The Apple Family and The Gabriels. The style – quietly, realistically acted “in real time,” minimally designed – seemed better suited for those previous pieces…

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

 

Jesus Hopped The A Train Review and Pics: Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Spiritual Killers

Sean Carvajal in Jesus Hopped the A Train

Two killers in adjoining prison cages face off about God in this killer revival of one of the earliest plays by Stephen Adly Guirgis, the streetwise New York playwright of such acclaimed recent dramas as the Pulitzer-winning Between Riverside and Crazy and Broadway’s The M-F With the Hat. Foul-mouthed funny and intense and thought-provoking, the play is a promising start to Guirgis’ 2017-2018 “residency” at New York’s Signature Theatre.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene 

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

Torch Song Review and Pics

Michael Rosen and Michael Urie.

It’s crazy, says Michael Urie as Arnold, that “after all these years I’m still trying to justify my life.” Arnold means his life as a gay man, and though he is talking specifically to his mother (Mercedes Ruehl), the comment lands with force in Torch Song, the Off-Broadway revival of the 1982 Broadway play that launched Harvey Fierstein’s mainstream career as both playwright and performer.

It would be terrific to report that the issues Fierstein wove into his Tony winning comedy about Arnold Beckoff’s life and loves make the play seem dated 35 years later…But the search for love and acceptance and self-acceptance remains as fresh as a wound….What does feel dated, though, is a steady beat of jokes as if set to the metronome of an old-fashioned Broadway comedy…Torch Song can probably best be appreciated, even celebrated, as a piece of living gay history.

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged

Full review on DC Theatre Scene 

The Siege Review and Pics: Palestinian Theater about Bethlehem Standoff

Faisal Abualhayjaa and Hassan Taha in The Siege

The Siege, a play dramatizing the 2002 siege by armed Palestinians of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, is in several ways the exact opposite of Oslo, the last drama about the Palestinian-Israel conflict to run in New York.

Oslo, which won the 2017 Tony for Best Play, was American playwright J.T. Rogers’ attempt at a balanced look at the high-level negotiations that led to the first Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. The Siege is Palestinian playwright Nabil Al-Raee and his co-director Zoe Lafferty’s ground-level look, from a Palestinian point of view, at a half dozen of the people who were holed up in the church, one of the holiest sites in the Christian religion, for the 39-day standoff. It is produced by the Freedom Theatre, a Palestinian company in the Jenin refugee camp on the West Bank, which is presenting the play for the first time in the United States, at NYU’s Skirball Center through October 22.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Baraa Sharqawi. Skip Schiel  or Ian Douglas to see them enlarged.

The Treasurer: Review and pics

Max Posner’s play is called The Treasurer because a grown man is forced to take responsibility for the finances of his aged, widowed mother. But the title also suggests that he will take stock of the sort of debts that can never be repaid – the emotional ones accrued within a family.

 

If the premise is not novel, one look at the theater artists involved in The Treasurer offers the promise of a big payout. Deanna Dunagan, who won a Tony for her role as Violet Weston in the Broadway production of August: Osage County, portrays the mother. The son is Peter Friedman, a veteran Off-Broadway actor (Circle Mirror Transformation, Hamlet with Oscar Isaac) whose presence elevates nearly everything he’s in. Its director, David Cromer (Our Town, Tribes, The Band’s Visit, soon to be on Broadway), has an ability to turn even an old warhorse into something aesthetically fresh and emotionally real.

The Treasurer is, as expected, wonderfully acted, and there are a good number of solid scenes, some funny, some moving. But one walks away from The Treasurer as from a family reunion that wasn’t as satisfying as one had hoped.

Full review on D.C. Theatre Scene