A woman and her art triumph in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”

Clever, charming, sometimes funny, this show is always schmaltzy and delightful. I should connect to Carole King, since we both went to Queens College in the early 60s, but I admit I didn’t know her then. Maybe she was one of the arty folks who hung out in the small cafeteria. Like Paul Simon.

But I connect now! King was an icon of her time, getting past the limitations set for her (‘be a teacher,’ said her mom), reflecting women’s desires and hurts, and then great talents. The play is fascinating not only as King’s story, but as a look into the status of women and the music business of the time.

“After Midnight” is jazz lite on Broadway, but it’s still great jazz

This musical play about the Cotton Club in Harlem in the 1920s and 30s, a time of the big-band songs of Duke Ellington, is jazz lite. While the numbers are charming, especially those by the five-person dance team and a performer who conjures up Billy Holiday, it’s missing the gritty reality. It’s more Broadway than jazz. It’s what Broadway does to jazz.

Then again, though the Cotton Club performers were black, the patrons were mostly white, and it’s probably what they wanted.

“The Pig, or Václav Havel’s Hunt for a Pig” is clever Samizdat as Musical

This collaborative, inventive multi-media play with music is based on a Samizdat dialogue the Czech dissident Havel wrote in 1987, using the device of a popular rural pastime – roasting a pig – to satirize the communist government. It was inspired by the true story of Havel trying to find a pig to roast for his friends.

The performance starts with the excellent mood device of Czech singer Katarina Vizina and Jenny Lee Mitchell of Cabaret Metropol, doing European songs to music redolent of Kurt Weil.

“Love and Information” is a Caryl Churchill quirky disappointment

Caryl Churchill is one of my favorite playwrights (“Serious Money,” “Top Girls”) and a major dramatic commentator on the feminist and the political. I am therefore sorry to report my disappointment in her latest work, “Love and Information.” It’s a pastiche that seems thrown together from notes that needed editing.

The play occurs in a black box lined with graph paper. It pretends to be a commentary on what currently is going on in our technological lives. But it is pedestrian compared to what she has done before. Much of it is incomprehensible.

Let’s start with the best. A couple meets after years, but their memories don’t sync. Neither remembers the others memories. It’s called “EX.” It’s worth quoting in its entirely because it is very clever Churchill.

Are Citibank and NSA complicit in credit card theft?

March 6, 2014 – Last October, my mother was notified by her credit card company that there was a suspicious charge for $800 on her card. Her card was replaced and she lost nothing. She thought one of the clerks at Sally Beauty Supply was responsible. That was the last purchase she had made on that card. After that she used cash at the store. (Sally’s is a national chain and Mom likes to shop there.)

Today’s NY Times mentions Sally’s in a story about credit card theft.

What it does not mention is that this (apparently) was going on for many months without a fix or public notice. The theft of Mom’s card info happened nearly five months ago. It is clear that the card issuer (Citibank) did not follow up (adequately or at all) when put on notice about this problem.

Gigantic sums of money may be being stolen from banks in this manner. The federal law that limits individual losses to $50 per card protects the banks, but hides the real losses that the banks pass on without scaring customers out of using their cards.

Shanley’s “Outside Mullingar” is a charming bit of Irish black humor and blarney

John Patrick Shanley’s charming play about two lonely people who don’t know how to express their feelings is a delightful channeling of Irish black humor. One should add that the two, Anthony Reilly (Brian F. O’Byrne) and Rosemary Muldoon (Debra Messing) are both quite attractive, so their social awkwardness appears the result of living in an isolated farming corner of Ireland that lets you believe that people can exist for months, even years, without even talking to their neighbors – which when it comes to those two is the case. (So, suspend reality.)