Uncle Vanya: Tragically Funny

If Lincoln Center's revival of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya feels both timely and timeless, we can thank playwright and actress Heidi Schreck for her smart adaptation of the 1898 classic. With no references to anything that would place the story in a particular time or place (money is referred to as dollars, people reference “calling” each other rather than “calling on” someone), the play becomes universal—and all the more poignant. In Schreck’s hands, the lengthy Russian names become Anglicized and more approachable for American audiences—Aleksandr is now Alexander and Yelena is Elena, for example. But Ivan is still affectionately called Vanya

Patriots: Absolute Power

Peter Morgan has written any number of excellent plays, movies and TV series about world leaders, from Richard Nixon to Idi Amin to Queen Elizabeth II. But Patriots, his latest piece directed by Rupert Goold and running through June 23 the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, does not carry the same weight as Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland or The Audience (or The Queen, or The Crown for that matter). It’s not that the story doesn’t have grand ambitions, but Patriots does not quite reach its goals. The play follows Boris Berezovsky, a former mathematician whose love of numbers makes him a

The Great Gatsby: Not So Great

We all knew the musical adaptations of The Great Gatsby would be coming as soon as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 book entered the public domain, and the first of what will inevitably be many such productions is finally open at the Broadway Theater. And much like Jay Gatsby’s signature parties, the new musical is very flashy and bright and loud but there’s not an awful lot underneath. Jason Howland and Nathan Tysen’s score is full of bright pop songs that don’t really evoke the 1920s or the wild hedonism of pre-Depression New York. The songs are fine but not terribly memorable,

Sally & Tom: History Repeats

Sally Hemings is one of the great known-unknowns of American history. We know she existed. We know she bore children to Thomas Jefferson, the man who enslaved her. We know she was likely the half-sister of Jefferson’s late wife. We know she outlived him and, while she never officially got to experience freedom, she was “given her time” and allowed to essentially retire from the horrific work of plantation life. But if she ever was able to write down her own thoughts, that writing has not survived to the present day. If she told anyone the story of her life

Cabaret: So, Life is Disappointing

The timing feels very right for a revival of John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joe Masteroff’s seminal musical Cabaret. It’s only been 10 years since the last Broadway revival of the show but seems incredibly necessary right now to get people talking about how easy it is to ignore danger until it’s too late. It also feels very timely to have a production of Cabaret directed by a woman, especially as the choices Sally Bowles makes throughout the show become increasingly controversial. Since Christopher Isherwood first created the character of Sally Bowles, she has been interpreted by men, from John Van

Doubt: A Timely Parable

When John Patrick Shanley wrote Doubt in 2004, it was (allegedly) meant to be a parable, connecting the bombshell 2002 Boston Globe expose of sexual abuse by Catholic priests with the U.S.’ 2003 invasion of Iraq. That invasion was sanctioned in a bid to find weapons of mass destruction the Iraqi government was allegedly stockpiling—an allegation that was later determined to be false. Shanley’s play—which follows a strict nun's efforts to expose a convivial priest as a child molester in 1964—opened in late 2004 and went on to win the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for

Shucked: A Corny Gem

If you had told me a few months ago that I would spend two hours and change laughing hysterically at a cheesy, corny new musical reportedly inspired by the classic TV show Hee-Haw, I would have looked at you with one eyebrow arched well above my head. But Shucked, the new musical with a book by Robert Horn and score by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, manages to be ridiculously silly and fun at the same time. The show never takes itself very seriously and just focuses on easy laughs — and some days, easy laughs are exactly what’s needed. The story,

New York, New York: Come On, Come Through

Sometimes, all the elements for an excellent musical come together and the sparks simply don’t fly. Such is the case with New York, New York, a new musical based on a 1977 romantic movie. With songs by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb as well as new songs Kander wrote with Lin-Manuel Miranda, a book by David Thompson and Sharon Washington and direction and choreography by Susan Stroman, the show has all the makings of a hit, but the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. The story, inspired by the classic film that gave New York

Prima Facie: Turning the Tables

Madeleine Albright once said that there is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women. That quote could be at the heart of Prima Facie, a new one-woman play by Suzie Miller about a woman forced to confront her legal defense of rapists—and the legal system’s treatment of survivors—once she is sexually assaulted herself. The 90-minute play follows Tessa, a criminal defense barrister in London who uses peoples’ prejudices and misconceptions to ensnare them on the witness stand and who firmly believes that whoever builds the best case will win. Justice is incidental: “If a few guilty

Dancin’: Celebrating an Art Form

Bob Fosse developed the musical Dancin' as both a tribute to and a departure from his signature choreographic style. The show, which premiered on Broadway in 1978, was conceived as a celebration of dance itself, showcasing a wide variety of dance styles and techniques in a series of distinct sequences, each with its own style. Fosse used this structure to experiment with different choreographic techniques and to explore the boundaries of what was possible within the realm of dance. It worked. The initial production ran for 1,774 performances and launched a national tour that included different scenes and dances, demonstrating the