Oscar E Moore

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HELLO DOLLY! – Starring the Divine Miss M

May 4th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

And divine she is.  Bette Midler.  The voice is a bit rusty.  But she still retains the spunk that made her famous.  The comic timing.  The tilt of the head.  The wink to the audience.  The freedom to adlib and make this sterling production one not to be missed.  She shines like pure gold.  Enjoying every minute she is on stage.

Of course she has had a lot of help.  First and foremost Jerry Herman who wrote a blockbuster of a score (one hit after another) when songs were songs that could be remembered long after the performance ended.  I am surprised that the entire audience doesn’t join in singing the title song in this almost free for all production!  It has become such a popular classic!

Then Gower Champion who created Dolly’s original look (direction and choreography) that Warren Carlyle has caressed with loving care and added just a bit of balletic newness.

Jerry Zaks has taken over the direction and made this production a hilarious vaudevillian farce that makes us as pleased as punch.  One question:  In the jury scene how and why did Dolly get to chew on that turkey leg sitting at a table from the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant?  It is funny but makes no sense…

Her co-star David Hyde Pierce as Horace Vandergelder with a weird accent has been given another song to open Act II to pad his part.  The amusing “Penny in My Pocket” was cut from the original production.  He now comes from behind the show curtain to sing it and one might think he has come to announce that Dolly has taken ill and cannot continue.  Thankfully that is not the case as this production is 100% pure Bette.  Why couldn’t David Hyde Pierce be pure David Hyde Pierce?

The sets and costumes by Santo Loquasto are perfect period pieces that are eye popping visions of pastel rainbows on parade.

Gavin Creel is wonderful as Cornelius as is Taylor Trensch as his buddy Barnaby who work for Vandergelder and leave Yonkers for New York City seeking adventure and love.

Book writer Michael Stewart does wonders in adapting Thornton Wilder’s THE MATCHMAKER to fulfill their wants and needs as they each fall in love.  Cornelius to Irene Molloy (a ravishing Kate Baldwin) and Barnaby to Minnie Fay (a brand new comic face belonging to Beanie Feldstein).  Even Melanie Moore as the oft crying Ermengarde is not irritating as she follows her heart in capturing Ambrose Kemper (Will Burton) – bringing back fond memories of Tommy Tune.

Dolly has her eyes dead set on Vandergelder and his gelt and gets him to get her in the end ending with a beautiful finale that causes the audience to erupt once again in adulation for the Divine Miss M.

With a forty million dollar advance Bette Midler should be the reigning Queen of Broadway Musicals for quite a long time.  Even the television commercials are a class act.  This production is a very special event that should be seen.  You will never get such an opportunity again.  Relish it in all its finery.  Long live the Divine Miss M.  At the Shubert Theatre

Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

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A DOLL’S HOUSE Part 2 – Knock Knock Who’s There?

May 4th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

There are usually two sides to every story.  In Lucas Hnath’s brittle and fascinating new play A DOLL’S HOUSE PART 2 based on what happened to Nora after she infamously left her husband and children in Ibsen’s A DOLL’S HOUSE when she walked out the infamous door there are four:  Nora’s (Laurie Metcalf) Anne Marie’s the housekeeper (Jayne Houdyshell) Torvald’s the husband (Chris Cooper) and last but not least her daughter Emmy (Condola Rashad).

Fifteen years have passed.  The infamous door is omnipresent on the stark and bare set (Miriam Buether).  Four chairs.  A plant.  A small table with a box of tissues.  The stage is thrust out at an odd angle reminiscent of a boxing ring.  Someone knocks at the infamous door.  Anne Marie answers and is stunned to discover that it is the infamous Nora.

She has returned.  As a wealthy and famous writer, using a pseudonym.  Writing feminist novels.  The first of which was based on her marriage in which she rails against the institution in a mighty monologue before seeking an ally to help her out of a predicament that she never quite expected.

Laurie Metcalf is magnificent.  Her arguments strong.  Jayne Houdyshell is deadpan funny.  Nora seeks her help.  Never mind the fact that Anne Marie took care of the kids and Torvald all these years.

He has not remarried.  He has a dog.  And he never went through with his divorce from Nora.  That is her reason for returning.  The Norwegian laws favor men.  And Nora is in jeopardy of losing all she has independently achieved if Torvald does not get a legal divorce.  Will he oblige her?  Or back Nora into the corner once again?

Sam Gold directs this sparring match to perfection.

With her reunited daughter Emmy she goes over her sometimes hilarious options.  Emmy you see wants what her mother didn’t.  To be happily married and cared for by someone which drives Nora to distraction.  Calm and collected as if she is on a witness stand she and Nora discuss/confront the past.

The actors are equal opponents.  Good arguments all around.  Nora and Torvald pace like caged animals ready to attack for the kill.  A defiant look.  A defiant silence.  They are sometimes stronger than the great dialogue by Mr. Hnath.

Who is the victor?  To find out you should immediately see one of the best plays of the season.  At the Golden Theatre.   A LIMITED ENGAGEMENT.  And quite cleverly Mr. Hnath leaves that infamous door open for a possible Part 3.  John Golden Theatre


Photos:  Brigitte Lacombe

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BANDSTAND – misses the beat

May 3rd, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

War is hell and so is trying to make it on Broadway with a new musical.  It’s not easy.  In this well-intentioned but predictable BANDSTAND that begins with the sound of bombs exploding, faster and faster (is this an omen?) and then being picked up by the swing rhythm of the 1940’s post war music we are thrust into dancing Vets returning home – the lucky ones – some with physical injuries; some with important mental and drinking problems “to forget” in the first of many montages staged in frantic symbolic odd body positions and shrugs tailored by Andy Blankenbuehler who also directed this uneven production.

We almost begin to expect to see Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland or at least one might hope to see them come to the rescue as Donny Novitski (Corey Cott of the hairy chest and the ultra – bright smile) returns home to Cleveland to pick up his career of pianist/singer in local clubs.  Not to be.  He’s been replaced by younger guys who didn’t serve.

He had promised his best buddy Michael nicknamed “Rubber” who wasn’t so lucky to seek out his widow Julia Trojan (that’s about the level of the non-too-frequent humor of the piece) to help comfort her.  Julia, a poet who sings in the Church choir is portrayed by the lovely Laura Osnes.  And so he does.

Recruiting her as lead singer of the 5 piece band of Vets (with him on piano/vocals) that he puts together to enter a national contest “to honor our boys in uniform” – the winning song will be featured along with the band in an MGM musical.  And so he sets one of her poems to music…  You do see where all this is going?

He changes his name to Donny Nova and wants her to change hers.  She doesn’t.  She wins.

Along the way we see in flashbacks soldiers at war on the all-purpose unit set (bar, band, open dance area) by David Korins with lots of red, white and blue overhead lighting equipment – lest we forget.

Julia’s mom who gets and delivers the only humor here with true style is played by Beth Leavel.  Especially the joke about “deviled eggs.”

The set changes in Act II when they finally get to New York for the final cut.  It wasn’t easy as they had no money and they did gigs here and there with Julia helping out when her job at the cosmetics counter allowed.  Now here’s the thing.  She is wearing diamond stud earrings.  If she had only sold them they could have paid for the trip.  Why is she wearing diamond stud earrings?

The songs are original.  Meaning they are newly written by Richard Oberacker (music/lyrics) and Rob Taylor (book/lyrics).  They aren’t very memorable.  Once in a while we hear a snippet of a 40’s standard and our ears perk up only to be once again disappointed.

The five guys in the band – all one dimensional characters – play their own instruments backed up by the guys in the pit.  They are terrific:  Alex Bender – (trumpet) Joe Carroll (drums) Brandon J. Ellis (bass) James Nathan Hopkins (sax) and Geoff Packard – (trombone).

Perhaps they should continue on with their band when they fulfill their duty and are honorably discharged from BANDSTAND.  Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre


Photos: Jeremy Daniel

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INDECENT – Lesbians in Love

May 3rd, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

This play is important.  This production is important.  It deserves to be seen.  It has to be seen.

With an ensemble of seven extraordinary actors who play multiple parts with the exception of the brilliant Richard Topol as the Stage Manager and three musicians who are woven into the fabric of the play deftly written by Paula Vogel and directed with great imagination and sensitivity by her collaborator on this project Rebecca Taichman we bear witness to “the true story of a little Jewish play” – GOD of VENGEANCE by Sholem Asch (1906) – a Yiddish melodrama.

Its conception, its production, its troubles as it traveled across the continent and ultimately its censorship as it reached Broadway in 1923 resulting in its actors being jailed for indecency.

All because of a kiss.  A kiss between two women.  In a spectacular rain scene.  The daughter of a Rabbi who lives above a brothel that he runs finds herself falling in love with one of the prostitutes.

Lemml, the stage manager believes in the play from the beginning even when its author doesn’t.  And it is his perseverance that we follow through several “blinks in time” a great theatrical device – one of many that director Rebecca Taichman has come up with to make this hour and forty five minute lesson in what happened then could happen now.

With supertitles both in English and Yiddish that help clarify time and place and what language is being spoken make everything crystal clear although English is spoken throughout.  A fine accomplishment on its own.

Everything works in this very special production.  There is heartache and humor.  Style and substance.  The music is especially wonderful by Matt Darriau, Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva.

The ensemble of actors are Richard Topol, Katrina Lenk, Mimi Lieber, Max Gordon Moore, Tom Nelis, Steven Rattazzi and Adina Verson.

Go and be tremendously moved.  Be entertained.  Laugh and cry.  And most importantly be reminded of the horrors of censorship and its repercussions.  At The Cort Theatre.


Photos:  Carol Rosegg

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ANASTASIA – It is pure fantasy. Disney style.

April 28th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore


Is she or isn’t she?  Only her Grand-mama knows for sure in this new musical version of the Anastasia legend “inspired by the Twentieth Century Fox Motion Pictures” especially the 1997 animated film ANASTASIA with a score by Stephen Flaherty (music) & Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) for which they were nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes for “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon a December” that remain in this new production with many new superfluous numbers added.

It is pure fantasy.  Disney style.  Giving a new definition to “the suspension of disbelief.”  Geared towards the many young damsels dreaming of themselves onstage of the Broadhurst Theatre waltzing away be-gowned and bejeweled with their Prince Charming happily ever after and singing power ballads and holding onto that last money note for as long as possible.

A lot of hard work has gone into this lavish production that was birthed at Hartford Stage under the direction of Darko Tresnjak who has momentarily lost his magic touch.

The actors work extremely hard – perhaps too hard – to bring life to this oft told tale of the Romanov Princess who supposedly escaped the execution of her entire family and resurfaced to claim her rightful place in history.

Unfortunately the superb projections by Aaron Rhyne supply most of the life on stage turning this production into a live action theatrical event.  It’s like watching a movie with real live actors.

Some of it is charming.  Some of it is dull.  It is sometimes serious.  Sometimes vaudevillian.

As the plot wends its long weary way from St. Petersburgh (1907, 1917, &1927) to Paris (1927) costume designer Linda Cho gets to strut her stuff.  Be on the lookout come Halloween for copies of Anastasia’s final red gown to show up all over town.

With all the glamour and jewels worn by the Romanovs it’s no wonder there was a revolution.  But I digress.

Christy Altomare makes a fine Anya/Anastasia.  Lovely voice.  A voice that many young girls strive to copy.  Perhaps that is why all these cartoon heroines sound alike?  Anya really can’t remember much of what happened back then.  But slowly very slowly but surely bits and pieces return.  She becomes part of a con.  Headed by Vlad (an over the top John Bolton) and Dmitry (an excellent Derek Klena) who talk Anya into posing as the long lost last Romanov.

But the evil Gleb (Ramin Karimloo) who can hold a note longer than anyone else on Broadway has other ideas.  Back and forth we go from Leningrad to the ghost of the Romanovs to teaching Anya the details – some of which she somehow knows without any helpful hints from Vlad & Dmitry as Grand-mama (a regal Mary Beth Peil as Dowager Empress) who had escaped pines away in Paris with Countess Lily (Caroline O’Connor) who is more Texas Guinan than Russian expat.  She and Vlad are reunited with a number seemingly from another show – mugging away with one of the longest held kiss on Broadway.

Well you all know how this ends – eventually.  But before that happens there is a brief ballet of Swan Lake – nicely done where melodrama overtakes the plot at gunpoint.

Once in Paris we wonder where she got all the money to pay for her new look even though they did find one diamond sewn into her undergarments (suspension of disbelief) and why oh why does everyone sound so American?  Suspension of disbelief, encore.

This journey to the past has too many detours to make it exceptional despite a few cinematic highlights, solid performances, snow, white gloves, an all-important music box and a happy ending.  And book writer Terrence McNally doesn’t quite bring it all together into one satisfying whole.


Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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GROUNDHOG DAY – the unsinkable Andy Karl

April 25th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

Knee brace comes to the rescue.  Andy Karl brave heart that he is should be awarded a medal for performing above and beyond the call of duty despite a torn ligament in his left knee.  Making lemonade out of this lemon of an injury does have its advantages.  For knee braces.  Andy Karl single-handed will make them sexy and fashionable and the producers might want to add them to their souvenir stand.  Mr. Karl even creates an almost show stopping laugh while displaying it to his costar while making a suggestive invite wearing boxer shorts and a fur coat…

Only one of the many highlights in this delightful, imaginative and wacky fantasy with a heart of gold that is running on all cylinders at the August Wilson Theatre with a nifty score by Tim Minchin and book by Danny Rubin based on the cult 1993 movie classic GROUNDHOG DAY.

With a gracious nod to Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

It is one surprise after another.  Phil Connors (Andy Karl) is the egotistical, sarcastic and smarmy weatherman reporting on the moronic tradition of celebrating Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania on February 2nd.  Ironically enough the groundhog’s name is also Phil.

Somehow this reporter’s fate is sealed when he has to relive the day over and over again.   This might prove monotonous but the creative team under the brilliant direction of Matthew Warchus sees to it that subtle variations with wildly imaginative staging takes you on a whirlwind journey with laughs aplenty and a pull out all the stops performance of Andy Karl.  With the sexy and therapeutic aforementioned knee brace.

He also meets his match with his co-star Rita (Barrett Doss) the TV producer of the newscast of weatherman Phil Connors who has to put up with his superior attitude while skirt chasing not only her but anyone that will say “Yes.”  She meets his challenge song for song.  Laugh for laugh.  Tenderness for tenderness.

Phil is smart and he cleverly makes the dull routine of reliving this day by adapting his knowledge of what is going to happen and he in turn has a change of attitude and heart which is endearing.

Helped by an old school chum turned insurance salesman, Ned Ryerson (John Sanders) who gets to sing a beautiful “Night Will Come.”

There is a hoot of a scene in a bar with two townsfolk Gus (Andrew Call who is Andy’s understudy) and Ralph (Raymond J. Lee) that segues into a pickup truck being assembled around them resulting in one of the most manic and Mack Sennett inspired car chases in miniature.  You will love it.

The sets are a fantastic technological wonder designed by Rob Howell who also designed the colorful costumes.  Peter Darling has choreographed with the same amount of energy and imagination.  Head scratching illusions are by Paul Kieve.  The sound design by Simon Baker is excellent.  You can hear every clever and sometimes gross dick head albeit funny lyric of which you will be grateful.

It’s a wonderful production.  I loved it!  This is for you Ariel.  Highly recommended.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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COMIC RELIEF – two versions of comedy tonight

April 10th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

From the ridiculous to the sublime.  Two shows have recently opened on Broadway.  Both are very funny.  Both are completely different.  They are THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG and PRESENT LAUGHTER.  I recommend both – highly – and for different reasons.

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG is an unbridled ridiculous farce in the extreme.  Pushing the boundaries of logic with slapstick, physical dexterity and outrageous shenanigans as the Cornley University Drama Society attempts to stage The Murder at Haversham Manor without a single mishap.  Lucky for us anything that can go wrong does – and more.

There are no well-known stars.  Not yet.  The entire company from across the pond excels in this type of farcical humor.  Especially Dave Hearn portraying Max portraying Cecil Haversham in this play within a play – a riotous rendition of an Agatha Christie type mystery.

From the onset when cast members search the audience for a missing dog and recruit someone to help put the finishing touches on the set we are at their mercy.

If you love to laugh.  If you hate to laugh.  If you haven’t laughed in ages.  If you have a weak heart.  Stay home.  Otherwise race to the Lyceum Theatre immediately.

It’s not the words by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields that the actors speak but the actions directed with marksmanship precision by Mark Bell that makes every bone in your body a funny bone go a-twitter with the mishaps that befall this troupe of superbly bad actors.

The self-destructing set by Nigel Hook is one if not the best of the season.  The dog is never found but his leash becomes just another hysterical bit of business.  It’s a non-stop treadmill of guffaw inducing nuttiness.  And no stunt doubles!

I will admit that the paint thinner replacing whiskey is a bit much.

2 hours – a gazillion laughs – one intermission


Photo:  Jeremy Daniel


Now onto the sublime PRESENT LAUGHTER starring the most welcome return of Kevin Kline to the New York stage written by that wit of wits Noel Coward who originally played the role in 1942.

This is a relic that has been given a breath of fresh air and life with its brilliant casting and quick paced direction by Moritz Von Stuelpnagel in the too large venue called the St. James Theatre.

Lots of exposition to get through before it really takes off.  However it breezes along nicely with Kevin Kline as the egocentric and aging lothario who is a terrified of being alone star – with charisma and kisses to spare – Garry Essendine looking dapper in his silks and checking himself out often in the mirrors that are omnipresent preparing for his African tour to escape the lot of them.  Little does he know…

His producer Henry Lyppiatt (Peter Francis James) and his wife Joanna (a seductive and ultra- chic Cobie Smulders) who has her eyes set on her next conquest – Garry Essendine) and his best friend a besotted Reg Rogers as Morris who is having an affair with Joanna.

He is properly taken care of by his almost ex-wife – a superb Kate Burton looking properly chic in costumes by Susan Hilferty and his used-to-his lifestyle secretary Monica – a scene stealing Kristine Nielsen.

There is a dedicated valet (Matt Bittner) A cigarette hanging from her mouth maid Miss Erikson (Ellen Harvey) a would be manic playwright with a forceful handshake (Bhavesh Patel) and a young would be actress Daphne Stillington (Tedra Millan) who starts this comedy off pretending to have lost the key to her flat so that she conveniently gets to stay over with Essendine.

There are many laughs but it is not until the farcical elements take hold in Act II that hilarity truly ensues.  But not to the extent of the above mentioned inane THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG.

Here we have a plot and more developed characters and most importantly the words and wit of Noel Coward.  Some physical humor of which Kline is King.  With just one look he says a thousand words in this two act comedy that takes place in London 1939 and still holds up in 2017.  That says it all.

These two plays offer a respite from our dreary most difficult times and are cause for great laughter on the Great White Way.  Please do attend.  Put a lot of laughter in your life, try one or better yet both.

The set by David Zinn does not self-destruct.  It remains intact as a lovely backdrop for the period costumes by Susan Hilferty and the many entrances and exits of the terrific ensemble assembled.

2 hours 30 minutes one intermission.  Through July 2nd.


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Photos:  Joan Marcus




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AMELIE – the musical that goes wrong

April 9th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

I did not see the 2001 movie of the same title that has been adapted to the stage of the Walter Kerr Theatre by Craig Lucas (book) and score by Daniel Messe (rambling unmemorable background music) and Nathan Tysen/Daniel Messe (simplistic lyrics).  No comparisons here.

This whole seemingly well-intentioned but misbegotten one act project has been directed by Pam MacKinnon of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? fame with musical staging that amounts to stylized movements by Sam Pinkleton.

How did this overblown bland children’s show get to Broadway?  Phillipa Soo of the lovely voice and her co-star Adam Chanler-Berat of the quirky charm are the obvious answer. Both are excellent but they do not actually start up a relationship until the end of the show.  And so AMELIE doesn’t catch the gold ring but meanders along in short vignettes with various narrators to urge the absence of a plot along slowly and unsurely.

Is it a fantasy?  Is it a metaphor?  Perhaps a bit of everything that never ignites our imaginations.

This supposedly takes place in Paris.  Could have fooled me.  There is nothing French about this working-too-hard to be charming show except a menu.  Not even a “Bonjour.”

Amelie starts off as a young girl played by a shrill Savvy Crawford belying her name.  Her parents are so concerned about her racing weak heart that they home school her.  Her only friend is a goldfish she names Fluffy – Paul Whitty) that is quickly set adrift in the sea – as is the audience.

Amelie escapes to Paris to work in a café.  Friendless again.  Her mother is killed by a tourist represented here by a Thanksgiving Day Parade like balloon who jumps off of Notre Dame.  Her dad then creates a Gnome Memorial (David Andino) to his wife.  Still thinking of going?

Princess Diana is killed in a car crash giving new meaning to Amelie’s life.  She will help others.  Anonymously.  She’s still friendless except for a neighbor (Tony Sheldon) who has been painting a reproduction Renoir for a very long time – longer than the 1 hour fifty minutes it takes to slog through this unmusical musical.

The all types, all shapes and sizes ensemble portray the other characters.  Not much is developed or develops.  Until Amelie meets Nino (Adam Chanler-Berat) – who collects discarded photos from one of those photos booths of the past still found in Paris.

He works in a porn shop PEEP-O-RAMA and he wants to connect with Amelie but she has deep rooted fears of connecting with anyone.  Fears going back to her mom teaching her a Zeno’s Paradox – two objects can never meet.  Could this be the first Freudian unmusical?

I was fearful that’s Amelie’s weak heart would be her undoing as she scampers up and about and across David Zinn lackluster set where armoires stacked high remind one of Disney – we half expect them to come to life and enliven the proceedings.

Bonne chance!  Please keep in mind that no good deed goes unpunished.


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Photos:  Joan Marcus

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GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM – the return of Harvey Fierstein

April 8th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore


Can a 62 year old gay expatriate ex-cocktail pianist lounging around in a book lined London flat find true love – finally find his soul mate – again – after so many heartbreaks along the gay love canal of life via the internet?

That is the question investigated by playwright Martin Sherman in this three character genteel and romantic/historical menage a trois fairy tale that has recently opened at The Public Theater directed by Sean Mathias (with some odd choices) and featuring the versatile eccentric Gabriel Ebert and Christopher Sears.

The show curtain is a lovely green velvet and fringed old fashioned artifact with draw-strings with foot lights casting a soft enveloping glow.  Preparing us for who knows?  Looking very much like a British Music Hall.  But this is not a musical although the recordings of Mabel Mercer nicely permeate the production.

Harvey as Beau (with a Louisiana drawl and his well-known voice of gravel) makes his entrance to warm applause.  Gabriel as the 28 year old bi-polar lawyer Rufus (mergers and acquisitions) enters in his black undies and warms our hearts.  He is quick to embrace and fawn over Beau.  He adores older men.  He knows Mabel Mercer.  He acts like a teenage puppy dog.  And before you know it he is moving in.  He has merged and acquired.

That’s when Beau takes center stage to relate some of his past history and past loves in the first of many monologues describing what it was like to be a gay man way back when in the dark ages.  A very different more serious Harvey than we are accustomed to.

Harvey is a master story teller and these monologues are the highlight of the evening.  James Baldwin.  Larry Kramer.  Judy Peabody.  Mabel Mercer.  The YMCA.  Aids.

The years pass by quickly.  Rufus meets another.  Younger than himself.  A performance artiste named Harry (Christopher Sears) – a charismatic chap with a sparkling earring and lots of tats.

Beau understands.  They all remain friends.  He is even best man at their nuptials in this meandering patchwork quilt of love in the gay world of 2014 as opposed to the gay world of 2001 when the play begins.  More surprises ensue.

Lots of territory is covered.  Maturity for Rufus.  A walker for Beau.  Harry gets to sing “The Man I Love” but I wasn’t much moved by all the goings on except for Mr. Fierstein’s monologues.  He sure knows how to relate a good lesson in gay history.  Harvey has lived through it all.

Is there a happy ending in this upstream battle for open acceptance and equal rights?  I hope so.  I believe so.  But it sure ain’t easy.

Through May 14th.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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SWEAT – Blood, threats and fears

April 3rd, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage along with her longtime director Kate Whoriskey did extensive research in 2011 traveling to Reading Pennsylvania interviewing locals – especially factory workers – for what would become her newest “torn from the headlines” episodic, often preachy docu-drama SWEAT.

And it shows.  Sometimes a bit too much especially in the back story monologues spoken by the characters on stage at Studio 54 in a production that has transferred from its sold out run at The Public Theater.

SWEAT deals with the “forgotten blue collar Americans” and their tragic plight which eventually was tapped into by Donald Trump resulting in his being elected President of these not so United States.

He promised them jobs.  Keeping their jobs and creating new ones.  And jobs are of the utmost importance to these citizens of Reading in the years 2000 and 2008 where the play jumps back and forth.  Jobs and drugs and race and drinking to release some of the tensions brewing among its citizens both black and white.

Mostly taking place in a local bar (finely detailed by set designer John Lee Beatty) run by Stan (James Colby) who worked at the factory until an accident disabled him.  A bar where everybody knows your name, your habits (good and bad), your favorite brew, your birthday, and who is supplying the drugs and using.

Unfortunately some are not paying too much attention to what is happening at the factory where they all work.  Where generations of their families worked.  Feeling secure with their jobs and salary and benefits.  Until the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) threatens their very existence.

Cut backs loom.  The Union offers a large reduction in wages.  Picket lines divide them. The locals begin to take sides in the neutral territory of the bar after Cynthia (Michelle Wilson) applies for and gets a new position as manager.  A position that her longtime friend Tracey (Johanna Day) would have liked to have gotten.  Their sons are best friends.   Jason, the hyper energetic Will Pullen and the more serious son of Cynthia Chris (Khris Davis) who has aspirations of going to college.

The third barfly is Jessie (Alison Wright) who is mostly out of it albeit amusing.

Then there is Brucie (John Earl Jelks) dad of Chris and sort of estranged husband of Cynthia – because of his drugs.  And Oscar (Carlo Alban) a Columbian born in America who helps out at the bar and is one of the best characters in the production who is the catalyst for the climatic ending.

Starting in 2008 Evan (Lance Coadie Williams) a parole officer is interviewing both sons separately about an incident that will take you a while to put all the pieces of this tragic puzzle together – as we go back in time to the year 2000 to witness the destruction of the people of Reading and their livelihood.



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Photo:  Joan Marcus

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