Major Barbara

Come and Make Explosives with Me

Major Barbara at first appears like a rather innocuous play, nothing that would inspire the economist Beatrice Webb to call it a “dance of devils” and “the triumph of the unmoral purpose”: Her children all grown up, Lady Britomart Undershaft (Carol Schultz) finds herself in a precarious position: her husband, the weapons manufacturer Sir Andrew (Dan…

Tamburlaine

The Scourge of God

What are we to make of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine (John Douglas Thompson), the Scythian shepherd-turned-emperor who spends most of this two-part play committing mass murder without any hint of guilt or self-doubt?  He resembles later theatrical incarnations of political evil, like Shakespeare’s Richard III and Macbeth, but no ghosts of victims come back to haunt him, no authorial…

Love Letters

Much Love

A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters cannot help but sound slight.  The entire play consists of letters being read aloud by Andrew Mackepeace Ladd III (Brian Dennehy) and Melissa Gardner (Carol Burnett), two upper-class WASPs whose friendship begins in elementary school and continues into middle age.  Andy is straight-laced and academically successful; he unquestioningly inherits his life…

Lost Lake

Bring Some Extra Blankets

David Auburn won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for his play Proof, which is probably the only reason that Lost Lake is being produced now by the Manhattan Theatre Club.  This is a textbook mediocre American play: Veronica (Tracie Thoms) is a nurse practitioner and a single mom who is looking to rent a cabin for a…

Cabaret

We All Need Mazel

Following Joel Grey as the Emcee in Cabaret is a bit like following Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire or, I would imagine, Mark Rylance in Jerusalem.  Mr. Grey is one of those performers who seems like he learned to entertain before he learned to crawl, and his Emcee is both attractive and repellent, with a face…

Six Characters in Search of an Author

Time for Rehearsal

Before Beckett or Ionesco there was Luigi Pirandello, whose Six Characters in Search of an Author was allegedly so shocking to its original audience that people could be heard crying out, “Madhouse!” in response to what they were seeing.  Now, unfortunately, its impact has dulled, and we are left with a play that feels very much like…

Angels in America

The Monolith Is Missing

Last weekend, the American masterpiece Angels in America was revived in a Dutch translation at the BAM Harvey Theater in Brooklyn.  Belgian director Ivo van Hove has pared down Tony Kushner’s play—which one character, commenting on the spectacle of it, calls “Very Steven Spielberg”—so that all that remains are the characters and their conversations.  There…