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Burning Doors Review: Belarus Free Theatre and Pussy Riot Unite to Fight For Human Rights

In “Burning Doors,” Belarus Free Theatre’s latest arresting, arousing, athletic and anarchic play about state-sponsored injustice, one of the eight cast members strips naked as he tells the story of a man who had been sentenced to death by firing-squad for a political crime, but was given a last-minute reprieve. The man was distraught at the thought of having to live on, having made his peace with dying.

The ironic story, as we’re told in a caption when it’s finished, is an excerpt from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. It presents in microcosm both the hypnotic appeal and the challenge of the work by this extraordinary 12-year-old avant-garde ensemble.

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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.

Time and the Conways Review: Elizabeth McGovern And Her Uninteresting Family

It took five minutes into the revival of “Time and the Conways” starring Elizabeth McGovern to realize this was no “Downton Abbey,”  the TV series that for six seasons featured McGovern as Lady Grantham; it took another ten minutes to support a city ordinance that would ban American actors from affecting upper-class British accents, especially shrill trills, on a Broadway stage; and after the 35 minutes of the first scene, I wondered why anybody would bring J.B. Priestley’s play back from the dead.  The Roundabout production is the first time it’s been on Broadway since its debut in 1938, when it got mixed reviews (“a tenderly wistful play” Brooks Atkinson wrote, but “most of his characters are uninteresting people”), and closed after just 32 performances despite a cast that included Dame Sybil Thorndike and a young Jessica Tandy.

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Springsteen on Broadway Reviews: Simple, Intimate, Profound

Bruce Springsteen sings 15 songs, and reads from a teleprompter to tell stories that were also in his year-old memoir, “Born to Run,” in a Broadway debut  that has the critics cheering; some swooning.

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Androboros Review. America’s First Play: Political, Satirical, Scatological

Androboros: Benjamin Strate, Caiti Lattimer, Roy Koshy, Hank Lin

Nearly everything about “Androboros” makes it sound like a must-see show.

It was America’s first published play, printed in 1714, yet there is no record it has ever been publicly performed until this production by the Peculiar Works Project.

The playwright, Robert Hunter, ruled as Governor of New York, and his play is reportedly rooted in stories that are true, bizarre and occasionally scatological.

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Measure for Measure Review: A Shakespeare for the Age of Mike Pence and Harvey Weinstein, via Elevator Repair Service

There are moments in the “Measure for Measure” by experimental theater company Elevator Repair Service at the Public that offer the purest Shakespeare on any New York stage; this occurs when they project the Bard’s words on the backdrop as the performers are reciting them. But even here, it’s only when an entire verse is projected, and scrolls up slowly, that there’s clarity. Most of the time, the projected words are scattered, fragmented, overly large, scrolling up at great speed, all of which renders the text unreadable.

The scrolling word play feels like a metaphor for this avant-garde production of Shakespeare’s last comedy as a whole: It’s hard to read. There are watchable moments, occasional visual appeal in the design, even some touching scenes. But it’s difficult to figure out – or appreciate — what director John Collins is up to.

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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