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By Bob Shuman

Richard Maxwell, a two-time Obie winner, has written a new drama—an anti-Western, set in deli milk crates (the imaginative scenic design is by Louisa Thompson)—that seems to miss home and identity.  Cultures have been taken away—and are mourned–in this piece—which has a poetry reading-, outside concert-like feel, especially given the inclusion of music by Steve Earle (and the mesmerizing uilleann pipes of Ivan Goff). Here, rain is being awaited, murders have taken place, and Maxwell finds himself meditating on being a father and raising children—he’s wiser, finding different ways to consider masculinity now.  Sam Shepard and Faulkner come to mind as reference points, but this really is more spiritually minded than its violence would indicate, and it could only be American, Americana.  So much is owed to the playwright Irene Fornes, in terms of the short scenes and unconscious inspirations, that one might suspect Maxwell was working with her workshop exercises. Maybe this hip, but less up-tight Maxwell, also owes something to his director, Sarah Benson (another Obie winner), and her clean direction, yet both have worked on harsher pieces, unrelenting ones: Samara, which could be referring to “tranquility,” stands in contrast to a similarly titled Maxwell play, The Good Samaritans—recently shown at Abrons Arts Center in February–a cold European-like concept work, important and brutal.  Here the lights are colored (Matt Frey designed them)—and even blink, while the other work showed the dead light of fluorescent tubes. 

The impulse of this reviewer is to say that Maxwell might be working artistically with the country’s return to nationalism.  As long ago as 2008, Split Britches wrote Miss America, in which they knew the nation was changing.  Today, an election has emphasized that it has.  The notion of thinking about this country’s past, earlier than the twentieth century, may be on the artistic mind, especially of course, given the success of Hamilton.  Instead of plays examining paralysis, new worlds of picaresque adventure may be inviting the imagination.  Maxwell might be hoping to make America remember itself again.


by Richard Maxwell
directed by Sarah Benson
with original music by Steve Earle

featuring:  Becca Blackwell, Vinie Burrows, Steve Earle, Roy Faudree, Ivan Goff, Modesto Flako Jimenez, Matthew Korahais, Paul Lazar, Jasper Newell, and Anna Wray

Set Design by Louisa Thompson; Costume Design: Junghyun Georgia Lee; Lighting Design: Matt Frey; Sound Design: Palmer Hefferan; Props: George Hoffmann and Greg Kozatek; Fight Director: J. David Brimmer; Choreographer: Annie-B Parson; Production Stage Manager: Rachel K. Gross; Assistant Stage Manager: Joanna Muhlfelder; Design: Studio Usher

Press:  John Wyszniewski, Rachel Shearer | Blake Zidell & Associates

Presnted at: Mezzanine Theatre
A.R.T./New York Theatres
502 West 53rd Street
New York, NY 10019

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Photo Credits: Julieta Cervantes

Top: Vinie Burrows and Becca Blackwell; BottomL Jasper Newell 


Openings and Previews

In previews. Opens May 9.


James Scruggs conceived and wrote this interactive piece, which transforms the theatre into a dystopian theme park called SupremacyLand, celebrating white privilege.


3LD Art & Technology Center


In previews. Opens April 24.


Darko Tresnjak directs this new musical, by Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty, and Lynn Ahrens, drawn from the 1956 and 1997 films about the Russian Grand Duchess.





In previews. Opens April 23.

The Antipodes

The playwright Annie Baker (“The Flick”) returns, with a piece about storytelling, directed by Lila Neugebauer and featuring Josh Charles, Phillip James Brannon, and Josh Hamilton.


Pershing Square Signature Center



April 27. Closing soon

Babes in Toyland

Kelli O’Hara, Bill Irwin, Lauren Worsham, and Christopher Fitzgerald appear with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in the 1903 musical, conducted by Ted Sperling.


Carnegie Hall


Opens April 26.


Corey Cott and Laura Osnes play a war veteran and a widow who team up to compete in a radio contest in 1945, in this swing musical by Robert Taylor…





In previews. Opens April 23.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Christian Borle plays Willy Wonka in this musical version of the Roald Dahl tale, featuring new songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and a book by David Greig.





In previews.

Derren Brown: Secret

Brown, an Olivier-winning British performer known for his feats of mind-reading and audience manipulation, presents an evening of “psychological illusion.”


Atlantic Theatre Company



In previews. Opens April 27.

A Doll’s House, Part 2

Lucas Hnath’s play, starring Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper, Jayne Houdyshell, and Condola Rashad, picks up years after Ibsen’s classic leaves off, with the return of its heroine, Nora.…





In previews. Opens May 7.

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me

In this new musical by Joe DiPietro, Brendan Milburn, and Valerie Vigoda, a put-upon single mother (Vigoda) embarks on an Antarctic adventure with the famous explorer.


Tony Kiser



In previews. Opens May 4.

Happy Days

Theatre for a New Audience stages James Bundy’s Yale Rep production of the Beckett play, starring Dianne Wiest as a chatterbox half-buried in a mound of sand.


Polonsky Shakespeare Center



In previews. Opens April 20.

Hello, Dolly!

Bette Midler stars as the turn-of-the-century matchmaker Dolly Levi, in the Jerry Herman musical from 1964, directed by Jerry Zaks and featuring David Hyde Pierce.





Opens April 19.

The Little Foxes

Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon trade off roles night to night in Manhattan Theatre Club’s revival of the 1939 Lillian Hellman drama, directed by Daniel Sullivan.


Samuel J. Friedman



In previews.

The Lucky One

The Mint revives A. A. Milne’s 1922 play, directed by Jesse Marchese, about two brothers whose enmity erupts when one of them lands in legal trouble.





Opens May 3.

Mourning Becomes Electra

Target Margin stages Eugene O’Neill’s dramatic trilogy, which resets Aeschylus’ “Oresteia” in New England just after the Civil War. David Herskovits directs.


Abrons Arts Center



In previews. Opens May 4.

Pacific Overtures

John Doyle directs Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s musical from 1976, which recounts the opening of nineteenth-century Japan, starring George Takei as the Reciter.


Classic Stage Company



In previews. Opens April 30.

The Roundabout

As part of the “Brits Off Broadway” festival, Hugh Ross directs J. B. Priestley’s 1932 comedy, in which a man juggles his business foibles, his mistress, a…





In previews.

Seven Spots on the Sun

In Martín Zimmerman’s play, directed by Weyni Mengesha, a reclusive doctor in a town ravaged by civil war and plague discovers that he has a miraculous healing touch.




In previews. Opens April 25.

Six Degrees of Separation

Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey, and Corey Hawkins star in Trip Cullman’s revival of John Guare’s play from 1990, about a young black con man who enters…


Ethel Barrymore



In previews.

Sojourners & Her Portmanteau

Ed Sylvanus Iskandar directs two installments of Mfoniso Udofia’s nine-part saga, which charts the ups and downs of a Nigerian matriarch.


New York Theatre Workshop



In previews. Opens April 27.

Twelfth Night

The Public’s Mobile Unit performs the Shakespeare comedy for free at its home base, after touring prisons, homeless shelters, and other local venues. Saheem Ali directs.





In previews.


Suzan-Lori Parks’s play, directed by Lear deBessonet, is inspired by the life of Saartjie Baartman, a South African woman who became a nineteenth-century sideshow attraction because of her large…


Pershing Square Signature Center





(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/24; via Pam Green.)

The unbounded fury of Emperor Brutus Jones blasts into the room before he does. It is the sound of a powerful man in a dangerous fit of temper. “Who dare wake up the emperor?” he roars.

That would be the director Ciaran O’Reilly, who has revived his gorgeous, astonishing production of Eugene O’Neill’s “The Emperor Jones” at Irish Repertory Theater, with largely the same creative team but an almost entirely new cast. Revelatory in 2009, when it starred the commanding John Douglas Thompson, it’s now both ferocious and blindsidingly affecting with the British newcomer Obi Abili in the title role.

The play, from 1920, unfolds into a fractured dark night of the American soul, but it begins in daylight in the palace of the West Indies island that Jones rules. A black American with a murderous past and an avaricious present, he’s a former Pullman porter. Reckless and mercurial, a bully when he wants to feel his own strength, he luxuriates in the perks of the office he’s grabbed for himself: the throne, the golden crown, the money he is milking from it.

(Read more)


(Eric Grode’s article appeared in the New York Times, 3/22.)

Carol Channing, who created the title role in the 1964 smash hit musical “Hello, Dolly!,” has been called many things: “a walking alarm clock,” “a moon-mad hillbilly,” “an Al Hirschfeld caricature in the flesh,” with “a vocal range from deep foghorn to squeaky hinge.”

But one thing she has never been called is a type.

“Everyone is unique,” said Carole Cook, who in originating the Australian production in 1965 became just the second woman to play Dolly Gallagher Levi. “But some are uniquer than others.”

So what happened when the irreplaceable Ms. Channing said, “So long Dearie” to the role?

She was replaced. Again and again and again.

(Read more)

Top photo: NewNowNext



(Joe Gambino’s article appeared in Playbill Online, 2/17; via Pam Green.)

Beauty and the Beast—the tale as old as time—returns to the big screen March 17 starring Emma Watson, but Broadway fans have been completely obsessed with this Disney classic and its titular “Beauty” since it opened on the Great White Way in 1994. Over the course of its 13-year run on Broadway, over 20 actors performed the role of Belle. But what roles had they taken on before the headstrong princess, and where are they now? Be our guest as Playbill looks back on eight of them.

Susan Egan originated the role of bookworm Belle on Broadway in 1994 and was nominated for a Tony Award for her work. After leaving the Broadway production, she reprised her role in Los Angeles in 1995. This actor is no stranger to Disney. In 1997, Egan provided both the singing and speaking voices for Hercules’ Megara. Her most recent Broadway credits include Sally Bowles in the 1998 revival of Cabaret and as Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Egan now permanently resides in Los Angeles, where she voices Rose Quartz on Steven Universe. She recently published a blog post detailing her time as Belle on her personal website. Read it here.

(Read more)


(William Daniels’s article appeared on Vulture, 3/10; via Pam Green.)

William Daniels has had a long career as an actor that included performances in The GraduateTwo for the Road, and 1776, but what convinced him to join the cast of a kid’s show on ABC? As Daniels explains in his new memoir, There I Go Again: How I Came to Be Mr. Feeny, John Adams, Dr. Craig, KITT, and Many Others, it was the Shakespeare references. Michael Jacobs, who created the show, based Feeny on his high-school drama teacher, and convinced Daniels to join the cast by writing a speech about Romeo and Juliet that he would deliver to the show’s titular boy, Cory. Most of the Shakespeare references ended up being cut, Daniels explains in the excerpt below, but the character remained a powerful presence on the show, and in the lives of millions of viewers. 

Over the years you fine-tune your acting ability. It doesn’t mean you’re not capable of giving a lousy performance now and again, but on the whole you reach a point where you’ve increased your level of achievement. And it’s at that point, assuming that you are financially secure, that you have to protect your reputation by choosing carefully the roles you commit to. It was with that in mind that I expressed my doubts about taking on the role of George Feeny in a half-hour sitcom called Boy Meets World. At a meeting with the show’s author and executive producer, Michael Jacobs, already an established playwright and sitcom creator, as well as a movie producer, I told him I didn’t want to play a high school teacher who’s made to look foolish for the sake of some cheap laughs. I had too much respect for the underpaid, underappreciated teachers of this country to portray one of them as a fool. Michael told me about Bob Stevens, a Shakespeare-loving high school drama teacher he had had back in New Jersey who was his mentor and a man he greatly respected. With this teacher as his inspiration, he created George Feeny. Michael was very persuasive and assured me that he would never have me play an idiot, so I came on board.

(Read more)

View There I Go Again on Amazon:


By Bob Shuman

In the movie Alien (1979), John Hurt is killed when his chest explodes.  For those who do not know it’s coming—and maybe if they do–the scene can disorient. Matt Pilieci, an Amoralist, could be dislocating, too–in The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side (2009), he ran out of the shower, onto the stage with a hard-on, followed by two jovial women. Off-off-Broadway crossed a line there, whether good or bad: Derek Ahonen’s play didn’t always jibe, but his East Village was dirty, gritty, and vital—and he could confuse and disrupt. The plays that followed were off-the-presses hot, and they could reflect working-class concerns during the economically slow Obama years, as well as ‘60s idealism and trash culture.  The Amoralists are back now at the Rattlestick, until March 18, with a play by Ken Urban called Nibbler, but the show is a reverie on the spring semester of high school, when students are goofing off and waiting for late acceptances.  Lost are the raw, coarse emotional outbursts of the troupe—and its underground vibe–replaced with a white, middle-class defense of higher education.  

Apparently, Ahonen went off to make a movie (he may also have been burned-out)—and Matt Pilieci found less casting with the group.  Of the original three founders, only James Kautz is part of the new show.  He’s chipmunk-cheeked here, playing a kid who realizes he’s not going on to bigger and better things after graduation.  Kautz is probably as good here as he has ever been, and he has been very good before.  He is embarrassingly old for the part, almost a Lothario, but he has a pro’s aura: watch as he tries to wipe semen off his hand without a towel, after a masturbation scene (students may want to learn a different acting lesson, but there’s an acting lesson in it). The new writer, Ken Urban, dramatizes the upwardly mobile in South Jersey, who have a different social nomenclature than those in Ahonen’s boroughs and blue-collar burgs.  The Amoralist shows, in the past, proudly represented the underclass—it was their culture that Ahonen was prizing, perhaps comparable to the way Shelagh Delaney wrote about working-class Manchester.  Urban, however, has written a drama about add-on elements to legitimize his interest in nostalgia–such as the sci-fi subplot and the beating off.  He can’t speak for the working poor, those screwed by the government, or the merely dissolute. Although he actually puts a clunky alien onstage, one doesn’t burst from the gut—and that was what Ahonen could do. Even if he didn’t know who he was hitting or where that rage was going, underneath he wanted class protest.  A young woman (Elizabeth Lail), who works at a sex hotline, might have fit in perfectly in one of Ahonen’s plays, but here the role isn’t fleshed out.  Her boyfriend is only a type, the young business major (Spencer Davis Milford).  Urban can goose up his work with Amoralist trademarks, such as nudity and sex and dumbed-down conversations and characters, but, ultimately, he feels sorry for the ones who don’t make it.  He doesn’t love or champion them, as is.






Nibbler is a roomy play that could use more purpose and tension. Really, it’s the same high school story about the fears of going off to college that actual students write when they’re still living it—but they can tell it with innocence. Urban can’t find the drama of a Spring Awakening or Splendor in the Grass or Grease, much less Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, because everyone in his world is on the same side. His point of view is schoolmarmish, if not elitist—get into Stanford, Trenton State isn’t good enough; those who don’t attend will be behaviorally delayed. Tell that to Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, David Green, Nancy Sinatra, Larry Ellison, or Rachael Ray.  Nibbler can be offensive to those who don’t go to college—as well as those who do–because people are not retarded in their growth just because they don’t go.  College admissions departments are very fallible—there is no need to flatter petty bureaucrats at the expense of contemporary drama.

Sean Patrick Monahan gets to stand around naked, like so many Amoralist actors have before: in one section of Hotel/Motel, by Adam Rapp, the action included naked men walking around the theatre in circles, in slow motion.  It was like not having towels in a locker room. Monahan, who might have been given more blocking (the director is Benjamin Kamine), is an interesting actor, because he comes out to us as gay, subtly.  He’s non-differentiated sexually at the start—he doesn’t drop any overt hints.  Perhaps this is a portrayal to notice, one of the few of youth in the closet. Rachel Franco plays the smart girl of the group well, according to the role’s parameters—but, Urban doesn’t make her seem especially singular, and her counterpart in Merrily We Roll Along is more conflicted. Matthew Lawler plays the cop, a character who wouldn’t be given much sympathy in previous Amoralist shows. Here, he is all but a tragic hero—and he is quite good in a graying, balding, vulnerable way. But the audience also must accept Urban’s bias:  that cops should be unsatisfied with being cops.  Too many, in the theatre, believe that the only real occupations to aspire to are being writers or artists—but don’t those in such jobs, statistically, tend to end up being the real underemployed workers?


Is college really worth it, considering the time and expense and debt?  The creators of Nibbler barely raise the subjects, perhaps because their pathways to production may not directly include blue-collar or unsubsidized points of view.  Some argue that the last election was a shock because the working-class vote was misunderstood. Theatre needs to be wary, too, in how it portrays and understands its characters–and also when complaining of a lack of audience. The creators may be reflecting themselves back in the work–or outmoded or hackneyed assumptions, not society.    

Recently, at the Peoples Improv Theater (PIT), actors in Department of Fools–who are closer to the age of high school students–improvised a show called A History of Servitude.  Masked, they portrayed and named great events in history, from Ancient Greece and Egypt to imaginary ones like Elon Musk’s proposed space travel.  As their foundations become established, will they be lucky enough to find a playwright to consistently knock out material and let the group retain authenticity? For the Amoralists 2017, the most important work seems past-tense.  Like seeing today’s East Village, it’s a gentrification job. That may actually sound impossible for  this group—just about as improbable as believing that there can be beings from outer space.


Cast: Rachel Franco, James Kautz, Elizabeth Lail, Matthew Lawler, Spencer Davis Milford and Sean Patrick Monahan

The design team includes Anshuman Bhatia (Scenic Design), Christian Frederickson (Sound Design), Christina Watanabe (Lighting Design), Lux Haac (Costume Design), Stefano Brancato (Puppet Design), Ken Urban (Original Music), Alex J. Gould (Fight Choreography), Zach Serafin (Prop Design) and Alfred Schatz (Artistic Charge).
The production team includes Whitney Dearden (Production Stage Manager), Jeremy Duncan Pape (Production Manager), Jeremy Stoller (Dramaturg), Lico Whitfield (Lead Producer), Jessica Kazamel (Associate Producer), Alexandra Campos (Associate Producer), Dana Libbey (Assistant Stage Manager) and Judy Bowman CSA (Casting).

Performances are Thursdays – Saturdays at 8pm with added shows on Sunday 2/26 at 8pm, Monday 2/27 at 8pm, Sunday 3/12 at 2pm and Wednesday 3/15 at 8pm. Tickets are $31 and $16 for students (1 ticket limit with code STU1992, valid ID must be presented at box office), and can be purchased at or by calling 1-866-811-4111. The show contains nudity. Running time is 95 minutes. Post-show panels follow select performances – check website for details. For more info visit, Like them on Facebook at, and follow on Twitter at and Instagram at

© 2017 by Bob Shuman. All Rights Reserved.

Press: David Gibbs, DARR Publicity

Nibbler photographer: Russ Rowland. 

From top to bottom: James Kautz as Adam, Elizabeth Lail as Hayley, Spencer Davis Milford as Matt, Sean Patrick Monahan as Pete, Rachel Franco as Tara

James Kautz as Adam, Rachel Franco as Tara

Matthew Lawler as Officer Dan, Rachel Franco as Tara

Ken Urban photo: Soho Rep

Kautz, Pilieci, Ahonen: New York Times.



(Catey Sullivan’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 3/6.)

At 14, Wilmette’s Aaron Lamm has the kind of an acting career many adult performers dream of. The New Trier freshman has credits at the biggest Equity theaters in Chicago. He’s signed with an agent. And through March 26, he’s playing a major supporting role in Chicago Shakespeare’s production of “Love’s Labor’s Lost.”

As Moth, the cheeky page and the smartest character in the room in “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” Lamm is stealing scenes and getting major laughs at the Tony-winning Navy Pier theater.

(Read more)

Photo: chicago Tribune.









Listen at:

Never before performed or heard in the UK, Burgess’s Oedipus the King is a robust and powerful version of Sophocles’ classic text. The drama includes an invented language that Burgess created especially for the 1972 production of the piece at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, USA, which has been archived in the International Anthony Burgess Foundation archive. This broadcast will be the first time it has been spoken or heard in over forty years.

Christopher Eccleston, a keen Burgess fan, who used to run a market stall in the same area of Manchester that Burgess grew up in, stars as Oedipus; Don Warrington as Creon, Adjoa Andoh as Jocasta and Fiona Shaw as Tiresias, the ancient blind prophet who was born both man and woman.

The music was composed for the original theatre production by Obie Award-winning and Grammy Award-nominated composer of the show, Stanley Silverman. Stanley has worked with Arthur Miller, Pierre Boulez, James Taylor, Elton John, Sting and with legendary New York theatre maker Richard Foreman.
The BBC Philharmonic and Manchester-based Kantos Chamber Choir perform the music, conducted by Clark Rundell.

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(Jennifer Schuessler’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/22; via Pam Green.)

What’s interesting about an older employee for an employer—and what’s the best way for the employee to convince an employer that they are relevant on the job?

The genre-busting, glitter-dusting performance artist Taylor Mac and his musical director, Matt Ray, have been named winners of the 2017 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, for their 24-hour work, “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music.”

The piece, billed as a “radical fairy realness ritual,” is a decade-by-decade walk through American history from 1776 to 2016, told through the songs of the time, reinterpreted through a radical queer lens.

It was performed in its entirety last fall at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, first in three-hour segments and then in a continuous 24-hour marathon, complete with shared audience meals, group dance breaks and, mercifully, a sleeping loft for weaklings (like this reporter).

(Read more)

Photo: Berkshire Onstage.