Oscar E Moore

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FROZEN – Disney on Ice or Finding Elsa

April 2nd, 2018 by Oscar E Moore

Call me a Mouseketeer.  Call me a kid.  Call me a boob.  Whatever.  I am a fan of Disney’s new musical FROZEN on Broadway at the St. James Theatre.  In the great old tradition of Tinkerbell, Snow White and Cinderella the creators of FROZEN have melted all the snow and ice of our previous four Nor’easters and come up with a wonderfully entertaining musical based on the animated film of the same name which if you haven’t heard made an amazing 1.2 billion dollars in 2013 and had that hit song LET IT GO that you could only escape if you were buried under an igloo in Siberia.

Starring not one Princess but two.  Sisters as in “there were never such devoted sisters” – thank you Irving Berlin!  Ice cold Elsa (Caissie Levy) the elder with magical powers literally at her fingertips and Anna (Patti Murin) the more animated (no pun intended) of the two.  Elsa sings that well-worn ditty by Mrs. And Mr. Lopez.  Anna steals the show and our hearts and perhaps some awards at seasons end.

What a surprise then to fall madly in love with a reindeer.  An amazing bigger than life puppet operated by Andrew Pirozzi who without uttering a single word or singing a single note charms and beguiles with his movements and puppy dog eyes.  His name is Sven.  Buddy to Kristoff (Jelani Alladin) a mountain guide who aides Anna in finding Elsa after Elsa has unleashed her magical powers after a tiff with Anna at her Coronation and frozen all of Arendelle and its surrounding hinterlands.

We first meet Elsa (Brooklyn Nelson) and Anna (Mattea Conforti) as young girls romping around their castle bedroom building a snowman who later reappears as Olaf (Greg Hildreth) speaking and singing and operating the puppet attached to his feet.  He has a great number “In Summer” with a clever pop up mini set by Christopher Oram who has done a bang up job with all the settings and costumes that bring back the vintage Disney look that brings back wonderful vintage Disney memories.

There are six musical numbers in a montage of the opening scene that sets up the characters and situation.  It is at the Coronation of Elsa (the King and Queen have been lost at sea) where Anna meets the dashing and deceptive Hans of the Southern Isles (a terrific John Riddle) falls in love at first sight and is swept off her feet in a waltz.  They seem destined to be together after “Love is an Open Door” until Elsa refuses their marriage and uses her magical powers to put a freeze on things.  This does sound silly but just go see the show and enjoy it.

It is briskly directed by Michael Grandage.  Beautifully lit by that wizard of lighting Natasha Katz and has some fun choreography by Rob Ashford.  For instance the opening of Act II at the Trading Post where Oaken (Kevin Del Aguila) enters from the audience and proceeds to do a wild and zany number with the chorus in flesh colored body stockings as they burst forth from a Sauna and cavort to that well known standard to be “Hygge” – you may want to get back to the main story – the Trading Post is a brief stopover for Anna and Kristoff and my true love Sven – it does soon enough after you stop laughing and cheering.

There is also an almost show stopping quick change of costume for Elsa that is truly magical.  But the show belongs to Patti Murin as Anna.  She is charming and oafish and athletic and has a powerhouse voice.  Matched only by Caissie Levy’s brilliant rendition of “Let It Go” that seems as if we had never heard that tune before.  Quite an accomplishment.

I almost forgot there is one other standout.  With a strong voice and even stronger body who dances up his own storm.  Timothy Hughes as Pabbie – King of the Woodland Creatures or whatever they are.

Will the icy cold spell be broken by Anna finding true love and be reunited with Elsa?  That’s a rhetorical question folks.  FROZEN is a delightful show that pleases the eyes and ears and is for Mouseketeers of all ages.  I had a wonderful time with the wonderful world of Disney.

To quote Mr. Irving Berlin once again “Lord help the Mister who comes between me and my sister and Lord help the Sister who comes between me and my man.”

With a book by Jennifer Lee and music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez


Photos:  Deen Van Meer

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March 8th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore

What would you do?  You are happily married with two children (a boy and a girl) and have just given birth to a third – a girl who the doctor has, unfortunately, told you is a “Mongolian idiot” who “will never learn to read, write or possibly even sit up on her own.”  A direct quote from playwright Lindsey Ferrentino’s notes from the Playbill where her insightful, brave, and quite funny play AMY AND THE ORPHANS is playing at the Laura Pels Theatre – a wonderful Roundabout production through April 22nd.  I advise you to see it.

It is based on the true life events of Lindsey’s aunt Amy who was born with Down syndrome and her disconnected siblings here represented by Maggie (a profoundly funny Debra Monk) and Jacob her 61 year old brother (Mark Blum in true sibling rivalry form in trying to out funny his sister).  They have arrived in Queens from Chicago and Los Angeles to see Amy, their hardly ever visited sister who has been relegated to hospitals and state supported institutions after being abandoned by her parents on the advice of her doctors that it would be for the best.   Was it?

They have been reunited on this Thanksgiving holiday weekend because their father has died and they have to break the news to Amy who is now protected and guided by a no nonsense Italian caretaker Kathy (an extremely funny, honest and wise Vanessa Aspillaga) who is pregnant and does not hold back with her views on anything including Thanksgiving stuffing.

Down syndrome is a born with genetic disorder with no cure.  It can effect growth, speech and the ability to lead a fulfilling life.  Just don’t tell that to our Amy portrayed by Jamie Brewer who has Down Syndrome.  She gives us insight as to what someone who has the affliction can accomplish.  She is an inspiration to one and all.  To her it is not an affliction, it is just a part of her being.

We first meet Sarah (Diane Davis) and Bobby (Josh McDermitt) as they attend a symposium to help them get through some troubling times.  Married with two children Sarah has given birth to another girl with a troubling future and they have some major decisions to make.  They are excellent and we will meet them again throughout the play and as you might have already guessed they are the parents of Amy.  And it is Bobby’s death that reunites the three siblings.

Amy has a job in a movie theater.  She loves movies and watches them on her tablet.  Her boyfriend is Nick Nolte and she is fond of movie quotes and the color red.  She prefers friends over family.  She is sharp and independent which surprises Maggie and Jacob who treat her like a child.

It is on the way to dad’s memorial in a car driven by Kathy (at her insistence) out on Long Island that we get to known this foursome a lot better and the history behind Amy and her ordeal in a horrible state institution on Staten Island, Willowbrook also known as “the snake pit.”

Rachel Hauck is responsible for the simple and functional set that allows the various locations to quickly appear without the aid of visible cumbersome stagehands in this ninety minute packed with information and darkly funny dialogue with a punch that is clear as a bell and no intermission.  Bravo to one and all, especially to Scott Ellis its director.

The playwright has requested that the part of Amy be portrayed by a person with DS.  Nicely done here by Jamie Brewer.  Her final inspiring monologue of famous quotes from famous movies is a knockout.

In addition, Lindsey Ferrentino has adapted her play to enable Edward Barbanell to partake as ANDY at some performances.  An equal opportunity playwright.  Very nicely done.



Photos:  Joan Marcus

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HANGMEN – A minor McDonagh off Broadway

February 20th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore

You might want to see this Royal Court Theatre production of HANGMEN more than once at the Atlantic Theater Company on West 20th Street.  And not because it is written by Martin McDonagh.  And not because of all the excellent hype surrounding it.

You might want to revisit HANGMEN to try to understand more clearly what exactly is going on with the various characters involved.  Mr. McDonagh isn’t known for his clarity.  He is best remembered for his dark sense of humor, violence and sometimes implausible plot twists.

First and foremost you may comprehend better the many words of the actors with their extremely heavy accents the second time around.  Volume is not the problem.  The accents are.  Particularly those of Alice (Sally Rogers) and daughter Shirley (Gaby French).  One or two phrases understood here and there make it almost impossible to follow the bumpy McDonagh road of which “hangman” is better:  Harry (Mark Addy) reputed to be the second best or his archrival Albert Pierrepoint “numero uno” (Maxwell Caulfield) with all its underlying complications.

But I am getting ahead of myself and I’ll attempt to keep this brief.

England. 1963.  Hanging is the order of the day.  Hennessy (Gilles Geary) is about to hanged not hung for a crime he most probably did not commit by Harry (Pierrepoint was off or indisposed that day) and his prissy assistant Syd (Reece Shearsmith).  He isn’t going to die without a fight.  Told to relax and get it over with – “you could have been dead by now,” we are off and running.  Violence and gallows humor.

Fast forward two years.  The grimy, drab and water stained cellblock is (through the magic of stagecraft and set designer Anna Fleischle) replaced by a pub now owned and operated by said Harry and his raunchy wife Alice with fifteen year old daughter (whose self-esteem is lower than the incoming tide) in tow.  The set which offers yet another surprise location is the hero of this production.

Bar flies are in attendance.  As in CHEERS!  My favorite is Arthur (John Horton).  As do they all, he drinks his pints but has trouble hearing.  Even he has trouble understanding the accents.  Words and phrases and jokes must be repeated to great effect.

HANGMEN as touted is not hysterically funny.  Arthur is.  I kept wondering what it is exactly they are all drinking as I tried valiantly to follow the goings-on.  Not a good sign.

Into this mix marches Michael Caine – a complete stranger.  Rather Johnny Flynn as Mooney.  Immediately bringing to mind a young Mr. Caine in his prime.  Mooney is menacing and moody.  And according to his own evaluation “not creepy.”  He is looking to rent a room.  And shake things up.  Alice (the wife) is looking to have a little fun.  When next we see her she is all dolled up and ready to rock with this young newcomer.  But he sets as his target shy Shirley and he persuades her to meet him for a date.

Shirley disappears. But not before a reporter interviews Harry – as capital punishment has been abandoned and he is now out of a job.  The published newspaper interview puts him back in the spotlight.

Somehow (my favorite word when there is no obvious explanation) Mooney and prissy Syd hook up.  That’s all I’m allowed to divulge.  Even if I could I wouldn’t be able to as the rest becomes rather murky.  There is however another hard to digest hanging.

This unsatisfying melodrama replete with ominous thunder and lightning is directed by Matthew Dunster.  There is a running “cock” joke, a few red herrings and many unanswered questions.

The limited Off Broadway running through March 7th is SOLD OUT.  However, it will be opening on Broadway in the near future.  Hopefully these notes will aid in your understanding.  Hang in there!

I was quite disappointed.  At the Linda Gross Theater 336 West 20 Street.  2 hours 15 minutes – one intermission.


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Photos:  Ahron R. Foster

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PARTY FACE – Group Therapy Dublin Style Starring Hayley Mills Off-B’way

February 18th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore

Five Irish women.  Family and frenemies and one germ-a-phobic manic-depressive obsessive compulsive acquaintance.  Girl talk ensues.  Men in and out of their lives.  Chatty.  Gossipy.  Bitchy.  With an assortment of accents/brogues.  Nibbling and imbibing.  Loosening up.  Group therapy Dublin style.

At a party to celebrate Mollie Mae’s new kitchen – not her most recent bout with having a nervous breakdown because her unseen husband has flown the coup we, one by one, meet the assembled group.  After a while you will consider the fleeing husband lucky.  How Alan lasted 16 years is a wonder.

Wine glasses and multiple bottles of wine on view on the lovely set designed by Jeff Ridenour as we meet a subdued and glum looking Mollie (Gina Costigan) prepping for her guests wearing a wrist bandage and a frown.

You’ll find out why eventually and her reason for being so glum as she awaits the arrival of Carmel her sophisticated well preserved albeit annoying take charge judgmental mum (Hayley Mills looking lovely in pale pink silk Capri pants and white blouse) and her sarcastic sister Maeve (Brenda Meaney looking very butch) and her always positive but annoying neighbor Chloe (Allison Jean White looking like a spaced out socialite) whom I have nick-named Ms. Magenta.  Costume by Lara De Bruijn.

It is only near the end of Act I that Mollie Mae’s hospital mate Bernie (Klea Blackhurst) looking very much like Josephine the Plumber; bringing along her own yogurt and roll of plastic wrap arrives – just in time – to fix a leaky sink that explodes.  Don’t ask.

This group of women deserve each other.  We don’t.  After two acts of this ridiculous chit chat I would suggest avoiding them.  As has the aforementioned unseen Alan leaving behind an unseen topiary of a large penis and balls.

The characters as written by playwright Isobel Mahon are quite superficial.  We aren’t drawn in.  We don’t care.  The actors do their best.  But they can only do so much with what is not supplied by Ms. Mahon.

As directed by Amanda Bearse in TV sit-com mode (all we need is a laugh track) they become caricatures and tend toward the farcical which fights against any attempt at naturalism in the script.

To wit:  Act II opens with a conga line to “Turn The Beat Around” – there is a pillow fight, someone throws up, and Hayley Mills conks out on the sofa after some weird “find yourself” meditation lesson offered by the ever floating Chloe.  It’s not in the least bit amusing.

Through April 8th at City Center Stage II

Photos:  Jeremy Daniel

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John Lithgow: STORIES BY HEART – Ham and wry

January 17th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore


There’s some good news and some rather dreary news to report about this Lithgow family “show and tell” Roundabout production that has taken roughly ten years to get to the American Airlines Theatre via its bumpy albeit successful off and on road tour cross country.  A One Act version appeared at Lincoln Center Theater in 2008.

John Lithgow:  STORIES BY HEART has all the appearance of a bus and truck tour.  Minimal set.  Minimal props.  One actor.

And what actor could resist being that “one” actor?  Center stage.  In the spotlight.  “Me” – John Lithgow –the epicenter of my own universe for almost two hours with one intermission.

All eyes and in this particular case all ears focus on Mr. Lithgow as he fondly recalls his dad Arthur – also an actor and director and reader of short bedtime stories to John and his siblings as they moved around the Midwest settling in Ohio where dear old daddy ran a Shakespeare Festival.  He sounds like quite the character!

They were a warm tightly knit family and I wish more emphasis had been put on them in Mr. Lithgow’s introductions as the two stories that make up the crux of the evening are not as interesting as his mini family memoir.

The two ancient and hard to follow stories performed (not merely read) from a family relic – TELLERS OF TALES – which appears on stage with Mr. Lithgow along with the spirit of his dad are THE HAIRCUT by Ring Lardner and P. G. Wodehouse’s UNCLE FRED FLITS BY.

It is only the acting/performance of Mr. Lithgow that barely keeps the production above water.  There is no denying that he is a consummate actor.  A great mimic.  And mime.  With great comic timing.  A man of many faces and accents.  Charming.  Engaging.  But that is not enough as he becomes the characters in the above mentioned lost tales.  At least they lost me.

The audience reacts with much laughter in Act II – not by the narrative but by what Lithgow does with the characters – including a parrot.  One watches the watch to see how much longer this will go on.

Lighting designer Kenneth Posner helps in this respect.  As the stories wind down so do the lights.

So there is a light at the end of the tunnel to alert you back to where you have zoned out from by focusing on the sound effects as he shaves and snips and gossips in the first monologue and goes all out with the farcical goings on in the second.

As he mentions, “One man’s rose is another man’s garlic.”  You’ll have to decide for yourself if interested.

Mr. Lithgow, ham that he is, is wonderful – along with his wry take on the proceedings.  But the production and choice of tales just doesn’t cut the mustard.  Directed by Daniel Sullivan.

At The American Airlines Theatre.  A Roundabout Theatre Company production.  Through March 4th.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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FARINELLI AND THE KING – the music cure: a disappointing experiment

December 23rd, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

For those of you who can’t get enough of Handel sung beautifully by the renowned countertenor Iestyn Davies as the “singing” Farinelli (a renowned 18th century castrato) hie thee over to the Belasco Theatre (till March 25th) to hear this wondrous voice that calmed the nerves of one King Philippe V of Spain in what is now called bipolar disorder.

In fact, in this production there are indeed two Farinellis.  The “singer” and the “actor.”  The King may have suffered from mood swings but Farinelli suffered from having a split personality.   It’s a bit confusing.  But beautiful to look at and listen to.

Famous beyond his wildest dreams he only desired to escape his voice and be a regular “man.”  The actor Farinelli is portrayed by an equally wondrous Sam Crane.  They look alike.  They act alike.  Somewhat like conjoined twins Daisy and Violet in SIDE SHOW.

Bedecked in beautiful brocade period costumes by UK Costume Coordinator Lorraine Ebdon-Price and bathed in the golden glow of candles and amber lighting design by Paul Russell and set in a sumptuous surrounding of a period theater within the lovely Belasco theatre – this play with music unfurls and/or implodes – as some audience members seated on either side of the stage crane their necks to see what all the fuss is about.

It’s a fascinating subject that is skimmed over in Cliff Notes style by novice playwright Claire Van Kampen – a composer and historical music scholar.  Unfortunately the play is NOT the thing here.   It is its renowned star Mark Rylance.

Who happens to be Claire Van Kampen’s husband portraying King Philippe V in all his wacky glory: tics, pauses, asides, tantrums and underlying charm and wit that Mr. Rylance is famous for and could act the part in his sleep.  In fact, he spends much of this time in a nightshirt abed.

It is a golden missed opportunity that leaves so many questions unanswered that I urge anyone who is thinking of attending FARINELLI AND THE KING (which would not be high on my to-do list) to first read the very informative insert by David Cote enclosed in the Playbill program.

The King’s doctor (Huss Garbiya) sees no cure and along with Chief Minister Don Sebastian De La Cuadra (Edward Peel) they are determined to get him off the throne as they see him as unfit to rule.

When all else fails his devoted second wife Isabella Farnese (a calm and more than adequate Melody Grove) travels to London, hears Farinelli’s voice and somehow persuades him to leave his career to tend to the King believing this celestial voice will help soothe the King.  He does.  Why?

Most of Act II is in the countryside where all three commune with nature, experiment with the cure and kibitz with the audience after all the flickering candles have been replaced anew during intermission.  There is a sublime scene between Isabella and the two Farinellis.

Director John Dove has seen fit to include some silly sight gags and an Act I finale worthy of Cirque du Soleil.

The King remarks that Farinelli’s singing “makes it possible to live in this world” – and so it is with visiting this Globe production imported from London.  The power of music to heal is undisputed but it can also lull you to sleep.

At certain performances the singing Farinelli is portrayed by James Hall.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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METEOR SHOWER – A Steve Martin conundrum hits Broadway

December 16th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore


Twenty minutes into this 80 minute puzzling and slight but bloated idea penned by Steve Martin, there I sat – fourth row on the aisle – at the Booth Theatre – wondering what was happening as other members of the audience giggled and guffawed at the nonsense happening on stage.

Had I entered some twilight zone where Beethoven’s Fifth blared and stars raced across the backdrop of the sleekly designed Ojai home (inside and out) by Beowulf Boritt of real life stars Corky (Amy Schumer perky and pony-tailed) and Norm (Jeremy Shamos – master of the quadruple take)  as they eagerly await their star guests for the evening Gerald (an over-the-top Keegan-Michael Key) and Laura (Laura Benanti – looking very First Lady Trump); wondering who sent the bouquet of three large eggplants without a card that sits alongside the stuffed celery sticks?

Celery sticks aren’t the only things stuffed in this production.  Jerry Zaks, King of “do anything for a laugh” and I mean “anything” attempts to even outdo himself.  Some things work, most things don’t.

I have a good sense of humor.  But it isn’t Steve Martins.  A comic who made a name for himself on SNL doing outrageous skits, employing sight gags and sexual innuendos that sometimes fell flat but that the audience adored.  So if you like all that stuff “Meteor Shower” is for you.

It’s a cliché-ridden sex fantasy farce about a married couple who have obvious problems and have been to joint therapy.  Corky has been a cannibal and Norm is Normal or as Normal as one can be in La La Land.

The other couple could be their subconscious selves or just two annoying newly made friends that cause sparks and unusual couplings before the evening is finished.  Gerald is a bombastic know-it-all braggart and Laura is a beauty with a razor sharp tongue and stare.

College frat humor at best.  The audience really started to perk up with the announcement that one of the men has “an enormous dick” – which can be a huge advantage or disadvantage depending on how one uses it.

How to get through a marriage circa 1993 Hollywood style.  Fight, therapy, make believe, do drugs, drink, fight, make-up, threesomes, switch mates or just try to write about it in a self-help way.

It’s all a surreal pseudo-intellectual gimmick portrayed in short quick and repetitive scenes of the arrival of the guests that wears thin very quickly.

Without the name of Steve Martin on the script and the four popular stars signed on I do not believe that the long list of producers would have given it a second thought.

Best line – “Just rub it around the rim.”   Enough said.

Limited engagement through January 21.


Photo:  Matthew Murphy

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SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS – Palace Theatre transformed into Day-Glo theme park for Bikini Bottom

December 12th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

Who knew?  Who knew that a simple sponge living in a pineapple at the bottom of the sea in a town called Bikini Bottom could erupt on Broadway at the Palace Theatre as an ingenious, put-a-smile-on your-face, wildly imaginative, bouncy, pun-filled extravaganza that breeds one show-stopping production number after another – “a non-stop cartoon meets honest human feelings” with a score written by a slew of famous artists that somehow sounds cohesive and melodic that sets just the right tone all around?

Tina Landau knew, that’s who!  The mastermind behind this theatrical coup (conceived and directed) based on the Nickelodeon series by Stephan Hillenburg with a could-be-edited book by Kyle Jarrow that deliberately and successfully throws every gimmick into the pot, coming up with a delicious, savory and insane Day-Glo stew.

The not so simple sponge is SpongeBob SquarePants – the ever optimistic hero of this opus – portrayed by Ethan Slater making a tremendous, auspicious Broadway debut.

He is more than wonderful.  He is a lovable triathlon champion of the arts.  Singing, dancing, and gymnastics seem second nature to him.  He is charming to boot.   No better sponge to have as a friend.  And we all root for him to win!  And he does!

His fellow sea creatures all propel the plot along.  Mount Humongous threatens to erupt and destroy all unless someone can save the day.  It’s not Mighty Mouse but SPONGEBOB to the rescue.

The standout cast includes Patrick Star (Danny Skinner) his BFF – Squidward Q. Tentacles (a scene stealing Gavin Lee) who sports four toe tapping legs – Lili Cooper as Sandy Cheeks a squirrel and scientist who comes up with the solution even though she becomes an outcast for being different – the money hungry Eugene Krabs (Brian Ray Norris) his daughter Pearl Krabs (Jai’Len Christine Li Josey with a voice that can be heard echoing in Hackensack) and the evil one-celled Plankton named Sheldon (Wesley Taylor).

Plus The Electric Skates, a corps of sardines and Patchy the Pirate (a show within a show standout) – all of them cavorting on the monumental set design by David Zinn bookended by a Rube Goldberg contraption that has to be seen to be enjoyed.

Mr. Zinn also did double duty on the inventive costumes in a kaleidoscope of colors of which there seem to be hundreds – not nearly as many, however, as the ever shifting light cues designed by Kevin Adams.

Tom Kitt has pulled all the various genres of music together by the various artists.  Favorites include “Hero is My Middle Name (Cyndi Lauper/Rob Hyman) “I’m Not a Loser (They Might Be Giants) and “(I Guess I) Miss You (John Legend) and the amazing “Bikini Bottom Day” (Jonathan Coultron) that allows choreographer Christopher Gattelli’s dancers to strut their stuff to thunderous applause.

This is a fun musical for everyone:  Young and those old but still young at heart.

Stand up and cheer for optimism, persistence, friendship and imagination.  Highly recommended.  One intermission.  2 ½ hrs.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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THE PARISIAN WOMAN – Bland: 4 yawns starring Uma Thurman

December 11th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

You might be interested in the fact that ultra-cool socialite Chloe (Uma Thurman) one half of a Washington D.C. power couple – the other half being her successful well connected tax attorney truly understanding husband Tom (Josh Lucas) have an open marriage – fooling around with others is acceptable.

And at the age of 25 spent some time in Paris where she obviously learned the art of using her assets to manipulate others to obtain what she wants; boasts a tattoo of a baguette (location not divulged) lending little credence that she is truly a Parisian woman.

That’s about as Parisian as she gets.  Although she is sleek and chic it is difficult to believe that everyone falls madly, insanely in love (or is it lust?) with her at the drop of a beret.

Case in point:  Peter (Martin Csokas) a banker and long-time tortured to the point of distraction lover who has been given a key to her lovely Town house for their trysts (most probably in Georgetown) beautifully appointed by Derek McLane.

What a bamboo fire-screen is doing atop a piece of furniture in the barely visible offstage room is questionable.   No matter.  Any distraction from the stilted soap opera dialogue and contrived plot is most welcomed.

The hard to be believed plot centers around her husband wanting to be nominated to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and devious Chloe using all her wiles to get this accomplished – threatening to blackmail a new friend Jeanette (Blair Brown) who adds some spice of her own to the proceedings.  She is close to the President and has “influence.”  Her smart Harvard educated daughter Rebecca (Phillipa Soo) soon falls under the spell of Chloe…

In this drawing room dramedy playwright Beau Willimon can’t decide if it’s a comedy or a drama.  We get a little of both.  I suppose he’s made so much money with his HOUSE OF CARDS that he feels he doesn’t have to deliver the theatrical goods if he’s delivered Uma as its star – peppering the plot with snide Trump barbs and bits of “infamous catch phrases” that the audience desperate for something to latch onto laps up like parched kittens.

The direction by Pam MacKinnon is boring.  It’s a long 90 minutes without a break.

The characters are not believable.  Nor are their relationships to one another.  They appear to be play acting.  Not real human beings.  They drink a lot.  And lie a lot.  Only Ms. Soo makes a vain attempt to flesh out her role.

If so inclined, this banal production is at the newly renovated Hudson Theater through March 11 where the seats are comfortable.  At least.

Adapted loosely from Henry Becque’s 1885 “La Parisienne” – a comedy in three acts.  It has lost a lot in translation.  It might even be sub-titled “Jumping on the Trump Bash-Wagon.”  But jumping on that wagon does NOT even a mediocre play make.  Pretending to be a pot-boiler this is a very slow cooker.  Quel dommage!


Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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ONCE ON THIS ISLAND – spreading an aura of enchantment

December 7th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

A perfect cast.  A perfect score.  A perfect story of forbidden love on a hurricane ravaged island in the French Antilles.  There are no commercials and no intermission at Circle in the Square – just 90 enchanting minutes of clear sailing from start to finish in a production directed by the imaginative Michael Arden that oozes truth and honesty with more than a few Caribbean flourishes.

Based on the novel “My Love, My Love” or The Peasant Girl by Rosa Guy – this musical adaptation by Lynn Ahrens (Book & Lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (Music) was first produced in New York in 1990.  We must be thankful for its return in a perfect theater to house it.  It was well worth the wait to hear this magical, sensual and mystical tale seamlessly retold.

As the survivors of a massive hurricane literally pick up their lives around the sand covered stage – cleaning up debris and fearful of any further sound of thunder – they are smiling – happy to be alive after such a disaster – drying out their clothing, tending the chickens and a goat, cooking in a kettle drum and singing an anthem to life “We Dance.”  What better way to overcome what the god’s have delivered to them.

A quartet of gods: Agwe – God of Water (Quentin Earl Darrington) Pape Ge – Demon of Death (Merle Dandridge) Asaka – Mother of the Earth (a sensational Alex Newell – halting the proceedings with roars of approval from the audience) and the lustrous Erzulie – Goddess of Love (Lea Salonga) that the superstitious inhabitants both fear and honor on this island of “two different worlds” – the peasants “black as night” and the lighter skinned descendants of the original French planters.

As a survivor – a little girl Ti Moune (Emerson Davis) is adopted by Mama Euralie (Kenita R. Miller) and Tonton Julian (Phillip Boykin) whose story is then retold as an older Ti Moune (a ravishing and feisty Hailey Kilgore) saves the life of Daniel (Isaac Powell) a wealthy light skinned boy and then falls helplessly in love with him.

A love that cannot be.  If you cannot believe in this love then all is finished but in the casting of these two excellent performers there is no doubt about their heartbreaking love for one another.

The native choreography by Camille A. Brown is exceptional and thrilling to watch.  Costumes by Clint Ramos whimsical, brightly colored and true to character.  Lighting by Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer transforms the various moods and locations beautifully.  Scenic design – Dane Laffrey.

So what are you waiting for?  An invitation from the gods?  Please go see this beautiful production of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND.   Highly recommended.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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