Posted in musical comedy, sketches, skits, slapstick

"Murder for Two" Is Just Deadly

Brett Ryback as the detective and Jeff Blumenkrantz as all 13 suspects in “Murder for Two” at 2nd Stage Theatre Uptown. Photo by Joan Marcus

Normally a double homicide is an agreeable if grisly TV staple and a pleasant way to  pass the time.

In “Murder for Two,” at the McGinn/Cazale, Second Stage’s uptown showcase, the crime is in the ridiculous premise.

Taste and sense have been cruelly killed. Comedy has been bludgeoned and all the fun of slapstick was butchered. “Murder for Two” is dull and annoying when it should be cute and winsome.

Jeff Blumenkrantz in one of his 13 guises and Brett Ryback as the investigator in “Murder for Two.
 Photo by Joan Marcus

In “Murder for Two,” a new musical by Joe Kinosian (book and music) and Kellen Blair (book and lyrics), there is a murder at a birthday party.  Jeff Blumenkrantz plays all the suspects while Brett Ryback plays a cop named Marcus. While not quite enough to recommend this foolish little skit masquerading as musical comedy, Beowulf Boritt has gone all-out in designing the elaborate set, framing the action inside a panelled arch.

In the interest of offering a balanced view, we note that “Murder for Two” was a hit in Chicago in 2010.
Nonetheless, this reviewer found that although it is  a mere 90 minutes with no intermission, “Murder for Two” is overlong.

For more information about “Murder for Two,” visit www.2ndst.com.

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Posted in competition, contest, Gaby Alter, Itamar Moses, Leslie Kritzer, love story, musical comedy, reality tv

"Nobody Loves You" Is Very Lovable

Imagine life as one big dating competition in which losers and winners are chosen by popular vote.

Rory O’Malley as Dominic, Bryan Frankart as Jeff, Autumn Hurlbert as Samantha, Roe Hartrapf as Christian, Lauren Molina as Megan, and Heath Calvert as Byron in the 2nd Stage production of Moses and Alter’s “Nobody Loves You.”
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Itamar Moses’ and Gaby Alter’s “Nobody Loves You,” at Second Stage Theatre through August 11th, is about just such a love-off.

“Nobody Loves You” is an endearing musical which satirizes that pop culture phenomenon in which we make our most private moments, public.

Aleque Reid as Jenny and Rory O’Malley as Evan in “Nobody Loves You” by Itamar Moses and Gaby Alter at 2nd Stage Theatre. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Moses, book and lyrics, and Alter, music and lyrics, have created characters you can care for in their good-clean making-fun-of comedy. Neatly directed by Michelle Tattenbaum with nice choreography by Mandy Moore, “Nobody Loves You,” is well-staged, insightful and funny.

Adorable leads, Jeff (Bryan Fenkart) and Jenny (Aleque Reid) meet when Jeff joins the cast of the show within the show, “Nobody Loves You,” to win back his ex, Tanya (Leslie Kritzer.) Jenny, the assistant to the producer, Nina (Leslie Kritzer again),  is as cynical about the show as Jeff is. MCing the over-the-top competition is the pretty and vapid Byron (Heath Calvert,) whose moves are as smooth as his silky voice.

Heath Calvert as Byron, Leslie Kritzer as Nina, and Bryan Fenkart as Jeff in “Nobody Loves You.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

Kritzer’s Nina is a barracuda who cajoles and threatens cast and staff with equal parts sweetness and guile.
Like Kritzer, who takes on her third role in a cameo as Zenobia the day she is kicked off the program, Rory O’Malley shows his versatility as Chaz/Dominic/and especially Evan. O’Malley, a Tony nominee for “The Book Of Mormon,” is splendid as superfan Evan who tweets during the broadcasts.

And don’t forget to vote for Autumn Hurlbert’s spunky Samantha and  Lauren Molina’s fierce all-in Megan! Theirs are just two more standout performances in a fabulous cast, which also includes the very appealing Roe Hartrampf as the charming Chrisitan.

Bryan Fenkart as Jeff and Heath Calvert as Byron in a scene from “Nobody Loves You.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

What could have  been a cheap shot at the easy target of reality television and its many excesses proves to be a very intelligent musical work. Like Cupid’s arrow, “Nobody Loves You” hits the mark but doesn’t sting.

For more information and a schedule for “Nobody Loves You,” please visit www.2st.com.

Posted in AA, addiction, alcoholism, Bill W aka Bill Wilson, bio-drama, Dr. Bob, founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Hi my name is Bill W, sobriety

"The ring of truth:" It’s there in "Bill W and Dr. Bob"

Anyone who has struggled with addictions, either personally or intimately with another, knows that sobriety of any kind is hard won.

“Bill W. and Dr. Bob,” at The Soho Playhouse through January 5, 2014, tells the story of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and their wives in an entertaining drama.“Bill W. and Dr. Bob,” while being very sober in the sense of sincereis far from solemn. It is more than polemic, although if the play inspires you to start or join a meeting of your own, “Bill W. and Dr. Bob” offers a resource guide.

Timothy Crowe as Dr. Bob and Patrick Boll as Bill W. in “Bill W. and Dr. Bob” by Janet Surry and Sam Shem, at The Soho Playhouse through January 5, 2014. Photo  by Joseph E. Reid.

Anonymity seems to have been far from Bill W.’s (Patrick Boll) style and personality. He was a go-go stock picker who revolutionized his industry by going into the field to check out the way companies were run. He took his attractive young wife, Lois (Denise Cormier) on his travels by motorbike, and just when they were broke and running out of gas, he hit it big. We soon learn, however, that Lois is troubled by his blackout drinking even before 1929 comes along and Bill Wilson’s good fortune in the market turns with the Crash.

Bill W. (Patrick Boll) convinces Dr. Bob (Timothy Crowe) that the cure for alcoholism is in having drunks share their stories with others in the same plight from “Bill W. and Dr. Bob” at The Soho Playhouse. Photo by Joseph E. Reid.

Dr. Bob (Timothy Crowe) uses alcohol to relieve his shyness. Despite his natural humility and sense of responsibility, hangovers are part of his daily routine in the operating room. He cannot help but hit the hidden bottle as soon as his wife, Anne (Deborah Hedwell) leaves for a bible meeting.  Neither Bill W. nor Dr. Bob are religious men, and their attempts at a cure through temperance groups like The Oxford Scoiety fail until….

The newly-sober Bill is sent to Akron to look into a tire manufacturing concern, and possibly become its President. There he is distressed by desires to drink. In his search for someone to help stop him, he looks to meet other drunks.  He is introduced to Bob Smith, and the rest of the AA history unfolds in the drama that is “Bill W. and Dr. Bob.”

Co-playwrightsSam Shem and Janet Surrey, married physician and psychologist,  tell the story of Alcoholics Anonymous in a deeply theatrical way, aided by the excellent direction of Seth Gordon. The ensemble, which also includes Daniel Pearce and Liz Wisan in a variety of roles as bartenders, drinkers, reformers, is superb. In this outstanding company, Timothy Crowe is especially fine as Bill W.’s partner and friend.

For more information about the show and special events related to “Bill W. and Dr. Bob,” visit  http://billwanddrbob.com

Posted in dance, dancing with the stars, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Luis Bravo, Maxsim Chermkovskiy, romance, tango

Sexy Sells: "Forever Tango"

Gilberto Santa Rosa and the cast and musicians of Luis Bravo’s “Forever Tango,” in a photo by Walter McBride.

Tango is about desire and possession.

Luis Bravo’s “Forever Tango,” returning from a world tour to The Walter Kerr Theatre through September 15th, is a showcase for the ritualized sexiness of this aggressively elegant dance.

Karina Smirnoff and Max Chmerkovskiy with the cast of “Forever Tango.” Photo by Walter McBride.

Guilty pleasure and fan favorite Maxsim Chmerkovskiy adds his “Dancing with the Stars” charisma as a Guest in “Forever Tango,” partnering with the lovely and talented Karina Smirnoff, herself a mirror ball trophy winner on the ABC show. The varied choreography — no small feat in such a familiar dance form– is attributed to The Dancers, each pair of whom is responsible for the acts they perform. The exception is “Comme I’ll Faut,” choreographed by Juan Paulo Horvath and Victoria Galoto for Max and Karina. 
Juan Paulo Horvath and Victoria Galoto in Luis Bravo’s “Forever Tango,” at the Walter Kerr through September 15th. Photo by Walter McBride.

In a tribute to the signature instrument that gives the tango its distinctive sound, Juan emerges from a giant bandoneon in “Preludio del Bandoneon y la Noche” to be joined by Victoria coming from the wings. Juan has his own somewhat gangsterish charm and is very dapper in spats and fedora. 

The many and also varied costumes for “Forever Tango” are the design of Argemira Affonso, each costume change setting up the scene and the characters. Of course, the tuxedo or some variant is the staple for the men in many of the tangos. It’s the ladies who get to show off leg in black split skirts with red trim, or in slinky white sequined gowns. It’s also the ladies, who Ginger Rogers-like, do what the men do, just backwards and in stilettos. 

Erotic and dangerous, rugged and delicate, the tango requires precision and artistry, all of which the cast provide in abundance. Gilberto Santa Rosa, “El Caballeor de la Salsa,” with five Grammies to his name, sings bewitchingly of longing and love, sometimes in accompaniment of the dancers, sometimes on his own. 3-time Latin Grammy and Granmy Award winner, Luis Enrique takes over for him on July 30th.

Ariel Manzanares and Natalia Turelli are the comic relief in “Forever Tango,” and they take their role very seriously. For example, in the wry “La Tablada,” the couple fight over an elicit camera which they in turn flash at the orchestra and each other. Manzanares gives witty impersonations of a clown in his appearances, while Turelli plays the straight woman to perfection.

The large company of dancers, as well as the on-stage orchestra, has clearly been chosen from the best of the best.

“Forever Tango” is not a prescriptive or a rallying cry, but a promise. There is infinite variety in the ardor of its movements which promises lifetimes of pleasure.
For more information about Luis Bravo’s “Forever Tango,” please visit http://forevertangobroadway.com/.

Posted in Amanda Plummer, Brad Dourif, Suddenly Last Summer, Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie, The Mlk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore

2 Characters in Search of

Brad Dourif as Felice and Amanda Plummer as Clare in Tennessee Williams “The Two Character Play” at New World  Stages. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Is it possible that Tennessee Williams was not the best judge of his own work?

Photo by Carol Rosegg. Amanda Plummer as Clare and Brad Dourif as  Felice in  Tennessee Williams’ “The Two Character Play” playing at New World Stages.

“The Two Character Play,” in an open run at New World Stages, for instance, was his favorite, and Williams drew it in comparison to “The Glass Menagerie.” In fact, it is a muddle not unlike “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore,” a play which appeals mostly for its phantasmagorical title.
“The Two Character Play” is confusing and befuddling. It’s a combination of a “let’s put on a show” story and “The Madwoman of Chaillot.” The madwoman here is Clare (Amanda Plummer), Felice’s  (Brad Dourif) sister-actor, who unravels rather easily. And makes perfect sense while doing it. Felice, the playwright and stage manager, fusses to make everything perfect for her, for them.

Brad Dourif and Amanda Plummer are clearly having a good time doing “The Two Character Play.” Photo  by Carol Rosegg.
“The Two Character Play” is about two unmoored actors, putting on a play without their company to back and support them. Despite this odd premise, it is a bit funny and not as bleak as it might be. Alas, my personal reaction sounds like this: “Is this brilliant? and I don’t get it. Is this dreadful? and I still don’t get it.” 

There are mysteries aplenty in “The Two Character Play,” other than this reviewer’s state of mind, of course. There’s symbolism aplenty too. Revelling in his words is one of the pleasures in witnessing a Tennessee Williams drama. That experience is as true of the lyrical opening of the above-mentioned “The Glass Menagerie” as it is in the lovely narrative of “La Vieux Carre The beauty and terror of his language even shines through the film version of “Suddenly Last Summer.”

In “The Two Character Play”Tennessee the poet– and he was definitely that– is at work. Just not his best work, no matter what he had to say about it.

For more information about “The Two Character Play,” please visit http://thetwocharacterplay.com/



Posted in Brian Avers, Explorers, Jennifer Westfeldt, John McMartin, Lorenzo Pisoni, Max Baker, Nell Benjamin, scientists

"The Explorers Club" Still Looking for That East Pole

You know that fine line between completely mporonic and extremely clever? No? That’s probably because there really isn’t any such magical place.

“The Explorers Club,” at MTC’s Stage 1 at City Center, through July 21st, has a moment or two of cute absurdity. Unlike Nell Benjamin’s “Legally Blonde” in which the vapid and beautiful sorority girl finds her inner Harvard, the idiotic scientists in “The Explorers Club” mostly find no interior genius.

There is fine slapstick in a bar scene as Luigi (Carson Elrod) “delivers” drinks. The other highpoint is an “HMS Pinafore” bit with Harry Percy (David Furr) in full regalia.  Everything else just seems to stoop.Phyllida Spotte-Hume (Jennifer Westfeldt) is proposed for membership in the eponymous club by her admirer, Lucius Fretway (Lorenzo Pisoni) for her accomplishments as a scientist. She has discovered a lost city and brought back one of its “savages,” the aforementioned Luigi.

Westfeldt gets to play her twin, Countess Glamorgan, and wear lots of very cool costumes, by Anita Yavich, who has dressed the men beautifully as well. The set is also quite charmingly designed by Donyale Werle. Professors Cope (Brian Avers) and Walling (Stephen Boyer) are the suppressed gay-boy scientists, one who studies snakes and the other mice, “yet we are still friends.” More low-lying fruit is picked by John McMartin as Professor Sloane, the Biblical literalist scientist. Beebe (Arnie Burton) creates a diversion when he shows up as a warrior monk convert.

Alas,“The  Exploers Club” is no smarter than its lowest common denominator, which might just be Harry Percy who is determined to find the “east pole.”

For more information please visit http://theexplorersclubplay.com/