“Suffs” is a revolutionary story of women’s suffrage that echoes “Les Miz” as a struggle against oppression

“Suffs” is a revolutionary story of women’s suffrage that echoes “Les Miz” as a struggle against oppression

“Suffs” is in the category of the iconic “Les Miz.” A revolutionary story put to music to allow the writer to slip in truths about the forces that oppress a country’s heroes, who are, in this case, heroines. In a country that hasn’t been told the truth. Acclaim to Shaina Taub, who created the book, music and lyrics. It’s now a major part of American musical history.

Led by Valerie Ortiz, elegant flamenco meets modern dance in “Momentos”

Led by Valerie Ortiz, elegant flamenco meets modern dance in “Momentos”

When I first visited Spain decades ago, I loved flamenco, which had derived from folk dances of the gypsy culture of Andalusia. They were dances ordinary folks, peasants could do. For centuries, the elites, who despised gypsies, looked down on flamenco as vulgar and performed in seedy places. There’s a curious similarity to what Argentine elites thought of tango.

“Los Guardiola” is not your grandmother’s tango.

“Los Guardiola” is not your grandmother’s tango.

Tango is so iconic that sometimes productions say they are doing tango when it appears not quite so. At least what those of us not aware of changes in the dance believe. “Los Guardiola” is a case. This is today’s tango. Because tango has gone beyond the classic steps to infuse modern dance. And drama. And I liked it!

“Lights on Chaplin” brilliant re-creation inspired by his 1931 film “City Lights”

“Lights on Chaplin” brilliant re-creation inspired by his 1931 film “City Lights”

Taking off from Charlie Chaplin’s 1931 “City Lights,” this brilliantly scripted and performed mime play takes iconic moments from the film and adds scenes Chaplin would have approved. Directed smartly by Alwina Najem-Meyer, the actors are all excellent, especially Chaplin’s tramp, superbly created by Russian performer Dmitiri Rekatchevski, who was trained by the master, Marcel Marceau, in Paris.

“Dämon, the funeral of Bergman,” a crude homage to the film director, is “pornography of the soul”

“Dämon, the funeral of Bergman,” a crude homage to the film director, is “pornography of the soul”

The Court of Honor is the interior square of the gorgeous Palace of the Popes in Avignon, residence of nine popes from 1305 to 1429 and the most important gothic palace in Europe. It was a residence, place of worship, fortress and administrative city. The hotel where I was staying had a whiteboard for guests’ comments. One scribbled in fury that “Dämon, the funeral of Bergman,” staged there this month was sacrilege.

“N/A” Nancy Pelosi & AOC smart debate on ideology & politics

“N/A” Nancy Pelosi & AOC smart debate on ideology & politics

This is a clever pas de deux by Mario Correa of two important Democratic women in Congress disagreeing about the ideals, commitments, beliefs of their party.  Or of those Democrats who purport some values. Nancy (Holland Taylor) in a pink suit (which must denote some female tradition), is quite believable as a politician. She did a memorable turn as Texas governor Ann Richards in “Ann.” Ana Villafaña as AOC in a black pants suit is brilliant in her portrayal. If the real AOC was there, nobody could tell the difference. Playwright Correa, who worked in the congressional office of Constance A. Morella, has got the dialogue and differences down perfectly, the acting is fine, and the staging by director Diane Paulus is direct, as it should be.

“Breaking the Story” makes important critique of ‘activist’ journalism

“Breaking the Story” makes important critique of ‘activist’ journalism

This play about a woman war correspondent (of course, she rejects the first adjective) was written by Alexis Scheer, a young playwright whose Broadway debut was adapting the book for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s clever feminist “Bad Cinderella.” Director Jo Bonney is a prominent creative presence in the theater world, a winner of major theater awards and nominations, including Tony and Drama Desk. So, I expected a lot.

Riveting “Patriots” on Putin-Berezovsky part fact/propaganda

Riveting “Patriots” on Putin-Berezovsky part fact/propaganda

“In the West you have no idea….” says the opening voice of a man telling of the joys of Russian songs, picking mushrooms in the forests, laughter in the baths…” In other ways, “Patriots,” written by British playwright Peter Morgan and directed by Rubert Goold, on Broadway after a successful run in London, is based on Brits and Americans having “no idea” of the story it tells. It makes it possible for Morgan to mix fact and propaganda, even in a careless moment admitting as much. So, to find out what was true, I relied on the biography “Putin” by Philip Short, former correspondent for the BBC in Moscow, and acknowledged as the most important book dealing with the characters and period of the play.

“Uncle Vanya” at Lincoln Center turns Chekhov into soap opera

“Uncle Vanya” at Lincoln Center turns Chekhov into soap opera

Chekhov’s play was first produced in 1899 by the Moscow Art Theatre, directed by Konstantin Stanislavski. It has gone way downhill to Lincoln Center’s production.

Jeidi Schreck’s adaptation of “Uncle Vanya” directed by Lila Neugebauer is soap opera leavened by slapstick, which ruins the Chekhov play. It evokes a sense of sadness, lives of quiet desperation, but no sense of Russia. The set’s picnic table laden with food and wine, backdrop of birch trees, makes it clear this is about the characters’ own desires (eating and drinking) rather than the land they inhabit.

“Sally & Tom” is Suzane-Lori Parks’ stunning truth about Thomas Jefferson

“Sally & Tom” is Suzane-Lori Parks’ stunning truth about Thomas Jefferson

The story of America has always been about the narrative, especially the righteousness of America’s foreign adventures or political leaders’ devotion to the public good. The country’s founding history is central to establishing America’s virtue. So, the narrative about Thomas Jefferson is that he was a heroic American patriot who wrote the Declaration of Independence (drum roll, “all men are created equal”) and served as the third American president.

“Doubt, a Parable” of human nature, power dynamics and moral ambiguity

“Doubt, a Parable” of human nature, power dynamics and moral ambiguity

John Patrick Shanley’s play opened in 2004, but is set forty years earlier in 1964. It deals with complex themes of suspicion, faith, and morality surrounding the possibility of child sexual abuse. The issue of pedophilia by Roman Catholic clergy in the U.S. was first publicized in 1985 when a Louisiana priest pleaded guilty to molesting boys. But even though the scandal is not raised in the play, Shanley knows that is in the minds of the audience.

“The Ally” Israeli-Palestinian argument a riveting drama set on college campus

“The Ally” Israeli-Palestinian argument a riveting drama set on college campus

If you don’t have the time to read or listen to every argument about the Israeli-Palestinian question, spend an evening at the Public Theater production of “The Ally” (ie America’s ally, Israel) and you will get it all. In an entertaining and succinct fashion. From the voices of characters who represent the various sides and in-between of the debates. Playwright Itamar Moses has presented a theatrically staged event that could easily have occurred, and parts already have in U.S. spaces, especially universities, where this story takes place. Director Lila Neugebauer allows passion to power the arguments without ever becoming nasty.

“Days of Wine and Roses” is a soaring modern operatic soap opera

“Days of Wine and Roses” is a soaring modern operatic soap opera

Kelli O’Hara is spectacular in “Days of Wine and Roses.” Sometimes her voice soars so high that you don’t pay attention to the lyrics. It’s a depressing play about two alcoholics, one who recovers and one who doesn’t. But in her operatic soprano, you can listen to the joyous sounds that that give you a lift even as what’s unfolding on stage is a downer. But this is not unusual in the canon of opera. The book is by Craig Lucas and the bracing modern music and lyrics by Adam Guettel.

“Russian Troll Farm” uses proven lies to promote Russophobic propaganda

“Russian Troll Farm” uses proven lies to promote Russophobic propaganda

If I was writing this review as a drama, where I could make things up, I would say “Congratulations to the Deep State (aka CIA & Co), which has moved from propaganda films into propaganda theater. However, Langley guys, you need some theatrical help. Your “Russian Troll Farm” at the Vineyard is the most crude, amateurish, nasty piece of pseudo-theatrical claptrap I have seen reviewing theater since 1998 when I became a member of the Drama Desk.”

“Prayer for the French Republic” compelling story of Jews’ conflicting identities of family, religion, country

“Prayer for the French Republic” compelling story of Jews’ conflicting identities of family, religion, country

Through the lens of one Jewish family in Paris, “Prayer for the French Republic” delves into the thorny issues of identity, racism, and anti-Semitism. And to what country you belong. Seen from an intimately human perspective, these divisive political debates couldn’t be more pointed or timely. The work by Joshua Harmon premiered off-Broadway two years ago and reopened on Broadway last month.

“Our Class” a Gripping Exploration of Polish Anti-Semitism and Betrayal

“Our Class” a Gripping Exploration of Polish Anti-Semitism and Betrayal

“Our Class” by Tadeusz Słobodzianek, one of Poland’s most important playwrights, is a powerful and dramatic exploration of the impact of anti-Semitism and betrayal in a Polish village during and after World War II. It is based on a true story, a pogrom 80 years ago when 1600 Jews in a Polish village were murdered by their classmates, neighbors and friends.

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