By William Wolf

SWEAT (BROADWAY)  Send This Review to a Friend

Having seen “Sweat” off-Broadway, I can attest that the move uptown has not diminished Lynn Nottages’s drama in any way. On the contrary, it packs fresh power given all that has been happening in the country with respect to the complex issues addressed.

The cast is the same, and exhibits new freshness and passion in the respective performances. The effect is like re-revisiting people who one got to know previously and now enjoys seeing In a second look.

In truth, it would be pointless to try to restate in a different way the praise I had for “Sweat” originally, and therefore I’m reposting here the off-Broadway review, which applies to the show that I hope many more theatergoers will see in its new location and staging. The review, with minor edits, is as follows:

Playwright Lynn Nottage has an ear for the way in which people talk, and in addition, she has sensitivity and understanding about contemporary issues. With “Sweat” she plunges into the world of workers whose jobs disappear and who live in fear and desperation. Although the play, set in Reading, Pennsylvania, takes place between 2000 and 2008, what happens couldn’t be more timely.

We are teased at the beginning by parallel interrogations by a parole officer (Lance Coadie Williams) of two ex-prisoners who are having trouble coping with their lives. It is obvious that each has been involved in something terribly wrong. In the flashbacks we see the back story dramatically unfold to devastating effect.

Most of the play occurs in a bar, designed with an accurate look by John Lee Beatty. It is tended by Stan (James Colby), who long ago suffered an on-the-job injury at the steel-tubing factory where those who frequent the bar work, and could no longer continue employment there. The bar is kind of an after-work clubhouse, a relief from the stress of the jobs, and as we find out, the threat of unemployment in light of the trend toward moving jobs abroad. They are loyal union members, and aghast when they face a demand for a sharp pay cut by the company or a lockout. There is anger when it is revealed that Oscar (Carlo Albán), a nice-guy Colombian and helper at the bar, is interested in bettering his lot with a non-union job offered in a company recruiting announcement.

The lives we see are complicated. There is outspoken Tracey (Johanna Day), who is celebrating her birthday when we first meet her. She is close friends with Cynthia (Michelle Wilson), an African-American woman who has a son, Chris (Khris Davis). Cynthia has broken with her drug-addicted husband Brucie (John Earl Jelks), who wants her to take him back. Tracey’s son, Jason (Will Pullen), Chris’s friend, tends toward being a hothead.

This collective working class depiction takes a sharp turn after Cynthia wins a promotion that both she and Tracey competed for, and there is resentment between them, especially when Cynthia reluctantly reveals news of impending plant firings and urges the others to take the company’s lower pay offer. Jason blows his stack over the prospect of Oscar getting a job at the plant and what follows demonstrates how a sudden blow-up can tragically affect lives forever.

Director Kate Whoriskey is on the same wavelength as Nottage, and rarely lets up on the tension that brews. There is lots of shouting by the impassioned cast members, and the heat level of the play is high. We observe the kind of fears and anger that Donald Trump exploited in his speeches during the election campaign brawl. Lynn Nottage, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her play “Ruined,” clearly has insight to the characters about whom she is writing, and also is well-attuned to the situations in which they find themselves. “Sweat” is very powerful drama. At Studio 54, 254 West 54th Street. Posted March 30, 2017.

BROADWAY BY THE YEAR--THE 1940S  Send This Review to a Friend

There were so many enriched Broadway shows in the 1940s that creator/writer/director/host Scott Siegel had a gold mine from which to choose—“Oklahoma!,” “South Pacific,” “Finian’s Rainbow,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Brigadoon” and “Kiss Me, Kate,” to name some stalwarts integrated into the latest survey last night (March 27) in the popular Broadway by the Year series at The Town Hall.

There was not only the pleasure of hearing numbers from such hits, but the evening turned out to be an occasion for discovery, at least for me. I had not been sufficiently aware of the extraordinary talent of Lesli Margherita, who was making her Broadway by the Year debut. She proved to be dynamite. Her “I Hate Men” from “Kiss Me, Kate” was a rousing, hilarious gem, and her “Come Rain or Come Shine” from “St. Louis Woman” further revealed her vocal power. She also displayed a romantic side in her duet with Ben Davis in “So in Love” from “Kiss Me Kate.” Margherita dominated the stage with fresh, polished exuberance.

Siegel is always on the lookout for something different, and he sure came up with a surprise. Who would have thought that “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South Pacific” would be served us via a whistler? Yet there he was, Steve “The Whistler” Herbst beautifully whistling the song with perfect pitch, dramatic impact and high octave range.

There was another surprise in the highlighting of a superb dance team, Heather Ghering and Lou Brockman, who exhibited high style to “I Could Write a Book” from “Pal Joey.” Ghering, a knockout in her fuchsia gown, flashed her terrific leg extension, while Brockman skillfully led her in a variety of movements. They returned in the second act, with Ghering dressed this time in a silvery mini, as they performed while Daniel Reichard sang “Old Devil Moon” from “Finian’s Rainbow.”

Dance played an especially important role in the show, with Kendrick Jones, a tapping favorite in the series, showed his stuff as Kea Blackhurst sang “Taking a Chance on Love” from “Cabin in the Sky,” and also soloing in “Easy Does It” from “The Little Dog Laughed.”

The heart and soul of the show resided, of course, in the quality of the singing. Blackhurst also showed her skills with “That’s Him” from “One Touch of Venus,” “I’ve Still Got My Health” from “Panama Hattie” and with her Merman-like delivery of “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” leading the company in the finale.

Karen Ziemba, ever a hit, contributed a delicate “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” from “Finiain’s Rainbow,” a lively “I Got the Sun in the Mornin’” from “Annie Get Your Gun,” the lilting “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” from “Pal Joey” and “Right as Rain” from “Bloomer Girl.”

Ben Davis has an especially fine voice and dramatic skill, as demonstrated appealingly with his opening number “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” from the groundbreaking “Oklahoma!” and in his aforementioned duet with Lesli Margherita. Daniel Reichard enjoys injecting fun into his numbers where appropriate, as with his “A Cockeyed Optimist” from “South Pacific.”

Important credits in putting the show together include Ross Patterson for music direction, a task he has performed through all 17 years of the series, as well as for playing piano and conducting, with Randy Landau on bass and Jared Schonig on drums. Rick Hinkson was assistant director and assistant stage manager, with Joe Burke and Holly Cruz as production assistants. At The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street. Reviewed March 28, 2017.

THE PRICE  Send This Review to a Friend

Playwright Arthur Miller always probed character as well as circumstance and “The Price,” a Roundabout Theatre Company presentation directed by Terry Kinney, is a fine example. Set In New York in 1968, it starts simply as a cop silently surveys the cluttered, abandoned furniture store of his late father. By the time the play is over, we have been given a searing portrait of two estranged brothers and their alternate pursuits in life, plus revelations about their father, marriages and the era from which those under inspection emerged.

The cast in this revival is a major attraction. Mark Ruffalo thoroughly inhabits the character Victor Franz, who became a policeman and is inching toward retirement. He might have pursued other dreams had he not had obligations toward his father, but the force has been his life. Jessica Hecht is superb as his dissatisfied wife, Esther. She is torn between her marriage and her longing for a financially better existence and blames Victor for not chasing more opportunities for gain.

Miller had the gift of injecting humor into drama. In this case, that comes early with the appearance of Danny DeVito as Gregory Solomon, a second-hand furniture dealer who arrives to survey what’s up for sale in the place, which scenic designer Derek McClane has packed with all sorts of antique leftovers. DeVito is very funny as he maneuvers to pay as little as possible for the lot. He adopts a Yiddish accent, which lapses at places, but that doesn’t matter. It is a showy role for him and he seizes the opportunity and gets laughs with Miller’s lines, augmented by his own take on the character.

As they amusingly haggle to the exasperation of Victor, along comes Tony Shalhoub as Victor’s brother, Walter, who is a successful, affluent doctor, a profession he attained by walking away from home constraints—the opposite path of the resentful Victor, whose efforts to get in touch with Walter over the years were ignored.

The brothers are the equal inheritors of whatever money the store contents can bring. The figure will be minimal, but Esther sees Victor’s share as helpful. When Walter, after intruding on the negotiations thus far and bargaining with Solomon for a better deal, offers to turn over his share to Victor as a gesture of reconciliation, Esther shows eagerness for Victor to accept. But old animosity and pride are impediments. Throughout her performance Hecht is excellent with facial expressions revealing her feelings and frustrations.

We know an explosion is due evoking the hostility going back years, and when it comes the dramatic sparks fly and Ruffalo and Shalhoub make the most of their confrontation. The play is yet another example of how Miller could expertly probe into lives and situations with precision and heart. “The Price” succeeds as biting family drama. At the American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd Street. Phone: 212-719-1300.? Reviewed March 26, 2017.

JOAN OF ARC: INTO THE FIRE  Send This Review to a Friend

The Joan of Arc, as energetically portrayed by Jo Lampert in David Byrne’s new rock musical “Joan of Arc: Into the Fire,” is no poetic character gently pondering her faith and course of action. This Joan is a powerful, muscular fighter who looks as if she can wage battle with the best of them from the get-go. She is a woman who fits the over-the-top rock score provided by Byrne, who also wrote the lyrics and book. The result is a loud, exuberant pageant, complete with a burning at the stake simulated with special effects.

The trouble is that the score becomes repetitive and frankly, boring, after a while. Lampert’s performance as Joan achieves stature in the context of Byrne’s rock-vision, and those playing multiple roles as soldiers and others pack the work with further energy. But the music and lyrics fail to achieve emotional involvement. Only at the end when Mare Winningham appears as Joan’s grieving mother Isabelle to appeal for Joan’s exoneration does the musical generate intense feeling.

This Public Theater presentation, directed by Alex Timbers and choreographed by Steven Hoggett, makes an attempt to connect martyrdom with today’s challenges. That’s obvious from what greets the audience members before the start.

The curtain bears a giant sign: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Recognize the words?

They were spoken by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to justify silencing Senator Elizabeth Warren. Although Warren has not yet been burned at the stake, she has endured the enmity of the Republican leader for daring to speak her mind.

So much for references. “Joan of Arc: Into the Fire” is an ambitious effort to present the saga of Joan in a different manner—via rock music and direction attuned to the method --but It achieves more visual than emotional impact. At the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street. Phone: 212-539-8500. Reviewed March 16, 2017.

THE PENITENT   Send This Review to a Friend

Playwright David Mamet pinpoints a moral issue in his play, “The Penitent.” Should a psychiatrist who has treated a murder defendant who has been his patient give up records of the relationship that are demanded in court proceedings? Charles, the psychiatrist, played grimly by Chris Bauer, doesn’t think so in relation to the defendant known as “The Boy” and resists.

The play, presented by The Atlantic Theater Company, unfolds in episodic scenes between Charles and his wife Kath, portrayed by Rebecca Pidgeon, and Charles and his lawyer friend Richard (Jordan Lage) and another attorney (Lawrence Gilliard Jr). The structure is simple but aspects added to the main moral issue grow complicated, including Charles’s attitude toward religion.

The most interesting scenes involve face-offs between Charles and Kath. Charles has been battered in the press for something that he has written and is misunderstood as anti-homosexual. His stand on principle is also under attack, and Kath complains that she is suffering because being his wife has also put her under attack and shunning by friends.

Kath urges that he stop resisting and do what is demanded of him. She cannot abide his stance and rails against his stubbornness as not caring about her feelings.

Of course, we discern basic problems in their relationship, and there are revelations to come, including a confession from Kath after she has been hospitalized with what seems to be a breakdown.

Even though the play runs only about 75 minutes, it seems to go round and round at times in repeating the issues laid out for us. Although one can be absorbed, there is thinness in this Mamet play, which lacks the bite of his better works.

My main enjoyment came from watching Pidgeon, whose work I have admired, particularly on screen, as in a remake of “The Winslow Boy” and “The Spanish Prisoner.” Her performance in “The Penitent” gives the play a consistent edge.

Neil Pepe’s direction unfolds the succession of intimate scenes effectively, but there is nothing that he can do to whitewash the fact that the play itself, although always interesting, is Mamet light. At the Atlantic Theater Company, 336 West 20th Street. Phone: 212-691-5919. Reviewed March 5, 2017.

LINDA  Send This Review to a Friend

Although Penelope Skinner’s play “Linda,” set in London, is overstuffed, she hits on important issues about women in the workplace and at home, and a super-charged performance by Janie Dee In this Manhattan Theatre Club presentation as the woman around whom the play is built is an attraction in itself.

Dee plays Linda, who has worked her way into an important position in a company that sells beauty products. The play begins with her giving a pitch that lacerates the idea that women show their age early and pleading for a different approach is sales aimed at older women. Her smartly-conceived speech sums up neatly the liberation-driven need for women to climb out of the traditional view that tars them with early obsolescence in comparison with how men are regarded.

Linda’s boss, Dave (John C. Vennema), doesn’t take kindly to her attitude. Instead, he is partial to the approach of a much younger, ambitious woman in the firm who rivals Linda, who is already being regarded as getting over the hill.

Meanwhile, we get a portrait of Linda’s home life as wife and the mother of one daughter and the step-mother of another. But she is driven by her desire to get further ahead professionally and make a contribution toward the advancement of women, and having already won an award for her talent, she is all-consumed with work while she struggles with domestic chores as well. Her husband, a teacher, acts above-it-all and is consumed with his own life. The author stacks up complex complications for everyone, with the result that the play, even while touching on vital themes, seems overwritten.

The cast members all make vital contributions, but it is Dee who holds center stage and commands our attention and admiration. The playwright doesn’t give the character of Linda much warmth. Dee is always on fire in the role as Linda battles for survival professionally and personally. The one time when she lets herself go gets her into deep trouble. Someone with her constant edge would be tough to live with, but Linda appears to be written that way, and Dee is consistently dynamic in a performance that epitomizes the problems women face in having it all. She earns every bit of the curtain call applause she inspires.

Skinner has written a pertinent drama, and Lynne Meadow’s direction skillfully accents issues touched along the way. Walt Spangler has designed a smart-looking revolving set for home and office action. At City Center Stage I, 131 West 55th Street. Phone: 212-581-1212. Reviewed March 5, 2017.

WAKEY, WAKEY  Send This Review to a Friend

In Will Eno’s effective but terribly sad play “Wakey, Wakey,” a Signature Theatre presentation, we meet Michael Emerson as Guy, who is confined to a wheelchair and faces his inevitable death. He is certainly not ready to go, but contemplates death by ruminating about life. And therein we see the heart of the play, the putting a value on living while one exists, and thus being able to face the end of life with resignation.

“Is it time?” Guy asks fatalistically at one point. No, it isn’t time yet, and there is more of an opportunity to philosophize, even as he grows weaker.

Guy’s contemplations include telling us that every day 100,000 people die somewhere, and it was 100,000 the day before and another 100,000, the day before that. Call it perspective.

Emerson’s performance is remarkable. What he does with facial expressions will leave you deeply moved. As the end approaches his face is wracked with a combination of pain, bewilderment and fatalism, all fused to poignant dramatic effect.

The author, who also is the director, energizes the play with projections, some that Guy clicks onto a screen. Shots of Guy’s childhood and those of other children make the point of life’s span. We see animal life, including a mass of penguins waddling along as if in a procession. Toward the end, bubbles fall on the audience from the ceiling, as if to celebrate life.

Eno has added a character, Lisa, played sympathetically by January LaVoy, who acts as Guy’s care giver. Or she may be more than that—symbolically leading Guy in the transition from life to death.

“Wakey, Wakey” is highly sensitive theater that may touch raw nerves of those who have lost or are in the process of losing a loved one. On the other hand, it can also provide a note of courage and understanding. At the Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street. Phone: 212-244-7529. Reviewed March 3, 2017.

BROADWAY BY THE YEAR--THE 1920S  Send This Review to a Friend

As creator/writer/director/host Scott Siegel pointed out, the 1920s gave rise to a major change in the musical form as well as birth to numbers that earned a place in the American Songbook. The evidence was entertainingly on display at The Town Hall in the exploration of the 20s last night (February 27th) in this latest of the Broadway by the Year series, now in its 17th year.

Operettas were popular at the time, and the show got off to an appropriate start by William Michals singing “Song of the Vagabonds” from Rudolf Friml’s 1925 “The Vagabond King.” He did it the old-fashioned way—without a mike. Michals, who has a rich, glorious voice, needed no amplification as he wowed the crowd with the first of his numbers.

As Scott noted, a major shift was instituted by the 1927 “Show Boat,” the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein work that combined music and story in a new way for Broadway. Carolee Carmello and Robert Cuccioli enchantingly sang “Make Believe” from that show.

Both Carmello and Cuccioli proved stalwarts of the program. Carmello contributed a tender “Someone to Watch Over Me” from the 1926 “Oh, Kay!” and a powerfully impassioned “The Man I Love” from the 1924 “Lady, Be Good.” Cuccioli, ever appealing, sang “My Heart Stood Still” from the 1927 “A Connecticut Yankee,” “With a Song in My heart” from “Spring Is Here (1929) and “What’ll I Do?” from “Music Box Review” (1923).

The casting of theater notables for this edition of the series was impeccable. When Beth Malone sang “Love Me or Leave Me” from “Whoopee!” (1928), she looked as if she had stepped out of the decade. She also did an Al Jolson-style delivery of “Toot Toot Tootsie (Goo’bye) from “Bombo” (1921), and had already shown her ability to change dramatically with her emotional delivery of “My Man” from “Ziegfeld Follies” (1921).

Jill Paice was another plus, impressively contributing the durable “More Than You Know” from “Great Day” (1929), “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” from “Blackbirds of 1928” and “A Ship Without a Sail” from “Heads Up” (1929).

Mary Testa is always a prime performer and she came through anew with versatility. She was a powerhouse singing “Find Me a Primitive Man” from “Fifty Million Frenchmen” (1929). Siegel, who on occasion likes to get into the act, came at her with a giant caveman-like prop club and the bit was hilarious. Testa also showed how good she could be with ballads, interpreting “I’ve Got a Crush on You” from “Treasure Girl” (1928) and the poignant “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man” from “Show Boat.”

Dancing adds spice when included, and tap dancer supreme Danny Gardner starred in and choreographed two numbers. The first act ended with “’S Wonderful” from “Funny Face” (1927), as he was stylishly abetted by dancers Bailey Callahan, Mindy Moeller, Danelle Morgan and Katie Walker, who are Rockettes. The ladies returned to back up Beth Malone in starting the second act with “Toot Toot Tootsie (Goo’bye).” Gardner tapped ingeniously with Brent McBeth and John Scacchetti in “I Want to Be Happy” from “No, No, Nanette” (1925). They incorporated into the number seated assistant Holly Cruz as the object of their attention, and she gamely got into the spirit tapping together a pair of shoes given her and rhythmically sauntering off stage with the guys at the finish.

I can never say enough about William Michals. He used a mike to movingly sing “Lover, Come Back to Me” from “The New Moon” (1928), but was unamplified again in delivering an all-powerful “One Alone” from “The Desert Song” (1926). (Singing without a mike, which used to be the norm in the theater, will be celebrated by Siegel and company at The Town Hall on May 1st with “Broadway Unplugged.”)

As usual since the start of the Broadway by the Year series, Ross Patterson was musical director, always a demanding task with such varied programming, as well as played piano brilliantly as leader of his Little Big Band, which on this occasion included Tom Hubbard on bass and Eric Halvorson on drums. Siegel’s assistant director and assistant stage manager was Rick Hinkson, with the aforementioned Holly Cruz and Joe Burke as production assistants. At The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street. Phone: 212-840-2824. Reviewed February 28, 2017.

DEAR WORLD  Send This Review to a Friend

These days elements of past works strike a contemporary chord if critical of authority. It just takes a negative remark directed at a president to elicit a laugh. In “Dear World,” a concert revival (February 25-March 5) by the York Theatre Company as part of its Musicals in Mufti series, the fictional 1945 plot of greedy businessmen who threaten ruin in Paris by digging for oil evokes comparisons with the Trump administration’s plans to dismantle regulations to prevent companies from fouling the environment.

“Dear World,” a 1969 musical based on Jean Giraudoux’s play “The Madwoman of Chaillot” as adapted by Maurice Valency, has music and lyrics by Jerry Herman with the book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. A new version is by David Thompson. On Broadway the role of Countess Aurelia, the “Madwoman” of the title, was played by Angela Lansbury. The role in the 1945 play itself, that of an oddball woman living in the basement of Paris neighborhood bistro, has been a lure for actresses in France and here. (Katharine Hepburn played her in the film version.) Now, in the concert offering of the musical in the York Theater Company presentation, Tyne Daly is Countess Aurelia.

As fans of the Mufti series know, the productions are bare-boned with a week of rehearsals, and participants use scripts to aid in their dialogue and songs. At the performance that I saw, Ms. Daly was a bit tentative at first but soon moved solidly into the role and by the time she sang a major number, “I Don’t Want to Know,” she was in good form, as was also the case when she later movingly sang “And I Was Beautiful.”

“Dear World,” whether as straight drama or musical, has always been problematical for its mix of reality and flights of fancy in the imaginative plot and bizarre characterizations. Its best quality is charm, and the cast in the Mufti production handily conveys that aspect of the work as it progresses.

Daly, of course, is always fascinating to watch. There are other attributes. Alison Fraser is a hoot as Madame Constance, the Madwoman of the Market, and Ann Harada is amusing as the Madwoman of Montmarte. Kristopher Thompson-Bolden is graceful and sympathetic as the Mute who talks in sign language.

Nina, appealingly played and sung by Erika Henningsen, is the young love interest infatuated with Julian, portrayed by Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, who is helping to foil the businessmen’s scheme. The villainous would-be exploiters, played by Peter Land, J. Bernard Calloway, Stephen Mo Hanan and Gordon Stanley are wickedly funny signing “Just a Little Bit More.”

The welcome revival has been directed by Michael Montel with musical direction by Christopher McGovern, also on piano. At The York Theatre Company at St. Peter’s, 54th Street at Lexington Avenue. Phone: 212-935-5820.

IF I FORGET  Send This Review to a Friend

Steven Levenson’s play “If I Forget,” a Roundabout Theatre Company production, is a family drama rich in both laughs and angst. Snappily acted by a sharp cast, the drama unfolds against a background of debate about the relationship of Jews to their culture and religion, as well as to Israel. That theme is worth exploring more, but while interestingly posed, it is overwhelmed by problems encountered in the Jewish family being depicted.

Levenson is skilled at mixing seriousness with laugh lines and that renders “If I Forget” consistently entertaining. Daniel Sullivan’s direction makes the most of the comic elements, abetted by performers who extract the maximum out of Levenson’s brittle dialogue and observations. But there are aspects that don’t ring true. More about those later.

(Before the play, located in a residential neighborhood of Washington, D.C., begins, we see an elderly man, whom we later know as Lou Fischer (Larry Bryggman), sitting in a chair reading. What is it that directors and playwrights hope to achieve by such useless staging? This is just a personal gripe of mine expressing annoyance at the frequently used gimmick and doesn’t affect the heart of this play.)

When we get into the action that begins in July, 2000 and continues into the following February, we find Michael Fischer (Jeremy Shamos) upset that his 19-year-old daughter has gone on a trip to Israel. His wife, Ellen (Tasha Lawrence), sees it differently. Fischer is more realistic about their daughter, who has a serious eating disorder, is depressive and, as we ultimately learn, has to be institutionalized.

But the daughter’s trip is used to illuminate Michael’s attitudes toward Judaism. He is a professor of religious studies who has no use for conventional emphasis on Jewish identity and religion. He is on a tenure track, yet has published a controversial book that gets him in trouble, a book that maintains the Holocaust should be downplayed, not continued as a touchstone of Jewish life.

His father, Lou, before he is stricken with a paralyzing stroke, has a poignant, impassioned speech in which he chides Michael by detailing his World War II experience of what he saw in the liberation of Dachau. It is the opposite of what his son believes. Michael gets a strong speech of his own in another part of the play when he rants about the behavior of prominent Jews in the context of what’s going on in the country and the world.

Especially interesting in the family relationships is the interplay between Michael and his sisters, Holly and Sharon. Holly (Kate Walsh), who has a sharp tongue and whiplash behavior, isn’t much of a thinker and nourishes the idea of establishing an interior design business. She has cards printed, but that’s it. Walsh’s performance could well be noticed at awards time, as is also the case with Shamus as Michael.

Sharon (Maria Dizzia), a teacher, has an affinity for the family store, contemptuously referred to at one point as now just a bodega, and it turns out that she has a special interest there. Financial worries, including taking care of the stricken Lou and Michael’s never-to-get-better daughter touch off a huge argument when the suggestion of selling the business arises.

During the play we witness loud arguments between Holly and Michael, and yet there is a bond between them, a bond that we also feel within the family despite the confrontations. Humor is sprinkled throughout, sometimes thanks to the characterization of Joey (Seth Steinberg), the rebellious, snarky teenage son of Holly and her husband Howard. Accused of acting like a thug, Joey proclaims, “I am a thug.”

Unfortunately, the author goes astray on occasion. Howard (Gary Wilmes) is a lawyer, yet he gets himself into unbelievable trouble that a lawyer could have contained before it reached the heights that create a financial and marital crisis. His letting a situation get out of hand in the way depicted is beyond stupid.

Also the ending of the play comes across as gimmicky, with the views of the ill and disturbed daughter who had gone to Israel used as a touchstone for solemn group chanting about Jewish history to drive home the point of continuance.

Flaws aside, this family drama comes across in its way as more vital and enjoyable than the justifiably lauded and admirably fine-tuned exploration of a different sort of family in“The Humans.” At the Laura Pels Theatre, 111 West 46th Street. Phone: 212-719-1300. Reviewed February 25, 2017.

  

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