Peter D. Kramer

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

See ‘Once’ at least twice

In Reviews on March 19, 2012 at 8:05 am

Like many contemporary Broadway musicals, “Once” — which opened last night at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre — is based on a feature film, a 2006 work of the same name.

Unlike other contemporary Broadway musicals, “Once” hasn’t a trace of irony or snark. Its touch is feather light, a musical unafraid of wearing its considerable heart on its sleeve, in a story without a buttoned-up ending.

“Once” is the real deal, a refreshing breath of fresh air.

It’s a boy-meets-girl story, about an Irish busker (simply “Guy”) and his whirlwind weeklong encounter with a Czech woman (“Girl”) he meets in Dublin. It stars Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti (above, in a photo by Joan Marcus), as two lonely people who share their loneliness and a love of music.

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Just not buying this ‘Salesman’

In Reviews on March 18, 2012 at 1:52 pm

“Death of a Salesman,” that titan of the American theater, is dozens of great plays in one.

Want to see a play about the lost American Dream? Arthur Miller has done that to perfection in “Salesman.”

How about a work that examines a boy who peaks in high school, whose glory days are long gone? Miller’s done that to a tee in “Salesman.”

Perhaps you’d like to watch a masterpiece about a woman who, bound by the restrictions of her age, spends her life wrapped up in her husband and sons, powerless to help them? For one of the best examples of that story, see “Salesman.”

Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.

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Analyst, heal thyself

In Reviews on December 12, 2011 at 6:59 am

One can’t help but wonder if an analyst’s care might have prevented “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” the mess of a musical that opened last night at the St. James Theatre on Broadway, a big bipolar and jaw-droppingly embarrassing work directed and “reconceived” by Michael Mayer, who had success with “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Spring Awakening” and “American Idiot.”

Mayer, it seems, always loved listening to the cast recording of the 1965 Burton Lane-Alan Jay Lerner musical about a girl, her shrink, and the woman she once was. In the original story, Daisy has ESP and a past life as Melinda Wells, who lived in the 18th century. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Bruckner, hypnotizes Daisy and falls in love with Melinda, making for a bizarre love triangle.

Mayer loved the music, but not the book, which he calls “problematic.”

Then, 15 years ago, while directing “Side Man” at Vassar College, he had a breakthrough. He could save this musical.

What was his vision at Vassar? His epiphany in Poughkeepsie?

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‘Stickfly’: Guess who’s coming to Martha’s Vineyard?

In Reviews on December 9, 2011 at 8:32 am

No one is precisely who they seem in “Stickfly,” which opened last night at the Cort Theater on Broadway.

We are on Martha’s Vineyard, but “not Oak Bluffs,” the Playbill announces. It is 2005 and this opulent summer place (magnificent set by David Gallo) will soon welcome the LeVay family — father Joe (Ruben Santiago-Hudson), sons Kent (Dulé Hill) and Harold (Mekhi Phifer) — and Kent’s fiancé Taylor (Tracie Thoms) and Harold’s girlfriend, Kimber (Rosie Benton).

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Mr. Chips he’s not

In Reviews on November 21, 2011 at 9:18 am

There’s not a lot to like about Leonard, the arrogant author-turned-put-down-artist at the center of Theresa Rebeck’s “Seminar,” which opened last night at Broadway’s Golden Theatre.

Played by the marquee draw of Alan Rickman (of “Harry Potter” fame), this former lion of the literary world is weary and wounded, snarling criticism at the four students who have plopped down $5,000 each for the privilege of having ten weeks of his “insight.”

He reduces one to tears when he won’t go beyond the first five words of her long-simmering story, praises a second just to get her into bed, calls a third a pussy and the fourth a whore.

Mr. Chips, he’s not.

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Ex and the city

In Reviews on November 18, 2011 at 7:49 am

There’s a moment, about 20 minutes into Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” — which opened at Broadway’s Music Box Theatre last night — when Kim Cattrall (best known as the sexpot Samantha in “Sex and the City”) proves that she’s right where she belongs.

It doesn’t come with a steamy sex scene.

It’s not about suggestive dialogue.

It’s a simple twist of the head and a flash of wide-eyed recognition.

Her character, Amanda, is on her honeymoon in Deauville, France, and has just realized that her ex-husband, Elyot (the Canadian star Paul Gross), is also on his honeymoon, in the adjoining room, and is standing on the adjoining balcony 30 feet away.

Oops.

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In this ‘Godspell,’ a Jesus who will friend you

In Reviews on November 8, 2011 at 6:42 am

WWJD?

If that “J” is Hunter Parrish, the star of the first Broadway revival of “Godspell” — which opened last night at the Circle in the Square Theater — the answer is simple: He’d arrive unaccompanied and jump right in to the group, smile wide, sing sweetly, dance, tell stories, and charm.

In the Age of Facebook, Jesus would definitely friend you.

“Godspell,” the Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak musical based on Matthew’s Gospel, has had thousands of revivals, in church halls, barn theaters and school auditoriums. But it hasn’t been on Broadway since Sept. 4, 1977, when its initial run closed after 527 performances at three different theaters.

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Found in translation: The charm of ‘Chinglish’

In Reviews on October 28, 2011 at 10:07 am

“Chinglish”— David Henry Hwang’s funny take on an American trying to gain a foothold in the Chinese market and suffering from one bad translator after another — is a lot of things.

It’s a fish-out-of-water story — but those are a dime a dozen.

It’s a quirky sort of romantic comedy — but we’ve seen plenty of those.

It’s a story about different cultures, but Hwang’s Tony-winner “M. Butterfly” (and even “The Book of Mormon,” for that matter) trod the same ground.

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A whip-smart “Relatively Speaking”

In Reviews on October 21, 2011 at 7:23 am

The laughter comes in waves at the Brook Atkinson Theatre on Broadway, where three one-acts — by Ethan Coen, Elaine May and Woody Allen — comprise “Relatively Speaking,” a starry evening directed by John Turturro.

Turturro’s work here is a bit of a miracle. He guides three wildly different sorts of plays with three different writing styles employing 16 actors, some famous, some not. He outfits each play with the right tone, the right actors, the right pace. It is something to behold.

While some may arrive at the Atkinson ready to see names from the screen big and small — Marlo Thomas (“That Girl”), Steve Guttenberg (“Cocoon”) and Mark Linn-Baker (“Perfect Strangers”) are in the cast — the revelation of the evening is Danny Hoch, a tall, unforgettable character actor who delivers some of the night’s best lines, first in Coen’s “Talking Cure” and then, after a break, in Allen’s “Honeymoon Motel.”

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Review: A powerful ‘Mountaintop’

In Reviews on October 14, 2011 at 6:00 am

“The Mountaintop,” Katori Hall’s powerful and compelling play imagining Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night, opened at Broadway’s Jacobs Theatre last night.

Directed by Kenny Leon (“Fences”), it stars Hollywood icons Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. That’s it — and that’s plenty.

For 94 minutes, the two denizens of the big screen fill David Gallo’s remarkable letterbox set — depicting the drab Room 306 at Memphis’ Lorraine Motel on April 3, 1968 — with true-to-life, honest-to-goodness, flesh-and-blood characters: one we know from history, the other an intriguing revelation.

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