A Particle of Dread

A Glimmer of Guts

In Sam Shepard’s A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations), Sophocles’ tragedy has been rewritten (with Irish accents) and then paired with a modern variation set in California, where the past is reconstructed through forensic evidence and kingdoms are measured in Chevy dealerships.  Stephen Rea plays both Oedipus and Otto, the latter an elderly amateur crime…

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Allegro

Proving the Need of It

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Allegro is a deeply flawed show.  The songs aren’t particularly great, especially considering that they came from the same writers who gave us Some Enchanted Evening, If I Loved You, and the whole damn Sound of Music.  The story, which follows Joseph Taylor Jr.’s (Claybourne Elder) development from infancy to angst-ridden big-city doctor, isn’t…

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…