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Off Broadway Openings and Previews for September

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Felix Starro is a famous faith healer in the Philippines whose clients included celebrities and big politicians. After falling on hard times, Felix decides to go to San Francisco with his young grandson to set-up shop for ailing Filipinos in the Bay Area- to earn just enough money to go home and retire comfortably. Unbeknownst to Felix, his grandson Junior has plans of his own to leave his grandfather and take his chances as an undocumented immigrant. Now Felix Starro is a new musical opening today at Theatre Five @ Theatre Row.

Tech Support at 59E59 Theater A opens September 4th. Life has become too complicated for technophobe and antique book seller, Pamela Stark. Pam’s world is soon turned upside down when, instead of providing assistance with her printer, the tech support guy, “Chip,” offers her choices for different centuries. In each era, this reluctant time-traveler saves lives as she is hurled from decade to decade. Pam’s emotional and witty journey finally ends with one last rescue—her own.

In Dust Alice thinks, life isn’t worth living. So she kills herself. But she’s stuck. A fly on the wall. Forced to watch the aftermath of her suicide and its ripple effect on her family and friends, Alice quickly learns that death changes people. And discovers that death isn’t the change she hoped for. Written and starring Milly Thomas. Opening September 4th Next Door at NYTW/Fourth Street Theatre.

Kathleen Chalfant stars in Novenas for a Lost Hospital, a communal experience to remember, honor, re-imagine and celebrate St Vincent’s Hospital. Inspired by the caretakers and patients of St. Vincent’s Hospital, and guided by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, this unique event takes a 60-person audience on a journey from an enclosed garden to Rattlestick’s intimate West Village theater to the NYC AIDS Memorial Park. Opening September 5th at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater/St. John’s in the Village.

In American Moor, an indomitable African-American actor auditioning for the role of Othello must respond to the dictates of a younger, white director who presumes to better understand Shakespeare’s iconic black character. What could possibly go wrong? This fraught audition turns into an exploration of Shakespeare, race, and America (not necessarily in that order). Fueled by humor and passion, American Moor paints an essential portrait of an American theater unaware of its failures, and of the culture that supports it. Opening September 8th at the Cherry Lane Theatre.

Also opening September 8th is L.O.V.E.R. at The Pershing Square Signature Center/Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre. Everyone remembers their first kiss…and second…and maybe their fifth? This bold comedy reveals the truths about life, love, and…sex. L.O.V.E.R. portrays one woman’s confessions of what goes on behind closed doors – and between the sheets. Playwright Lois Robbins stars and is directed by Karen Carpenter.

Only Yesterday. This intimate play brings to life a little-known night when John and Paul were becoming the most famous men on earth. After months of performing for arenas of fans, John and Paul find themselves stranded in a cheap motel room in Key West. They do what many young men do when they’re bored—get drunk and have some laughs. But as their talk turns serious, they bond over the revelation of childhood events and find inspiration for the music that changed our lives. Relive the era of the Beatles at 59E59 Theater B starting September 7th with an opening of September 12th.

In Certain Woman Of An Age this one-woman show starring Margaret Trudeau opens up – with refreshing candor – about her extraordinary life and her encounters with some of the most important icons of our time. It’s a gripping portrait of motherhood, marriage, life-altering tragedy and personal triumph. Certain Woman of an Age is a funny, honest examination of one of the world’s most fascinating figures. At the Minetta Lane Theatre
opening September 12th.

Martin Moran should have more rage about the crime he experienced as a boy, shouldn’t he!? Where is it!? Haunted by this question, Martin sets out on a quest that leads him around the globe—working as a translator for an African asylum-seeker, who was subjected to torture; encountering his stepmother in Colorado; getting lost in South Africa; and uncovering truths at the Cradle of Human Kind. With equal parts honesty and entertainment, All The Rage attempts to solve an ancient human riddle: How is it that one moment we might reach out in compassion and the next…kill? Starting September 13th at The Barrow Group Mainstage, with a September 16th opening.

From the brawny castles of 16th Century France, to the rugged plains of 1960s Idaho, to the strapping fortresses of 1920s India, all hail the remarkable stories of Great Men! — and their whiny, witchy, vapid, vengeful, jealous wives. In Wives time-hop into comedy as Jaclyn Backhaus pushes past patriarchal cliché to reach an ecstatic breakthrough, untethering stories and history — and language itself — from the visions made by men. Opening September 16th at Playwrights Horizons/Peter Jay Sharp Theater.

It’s been five long years since Forbidden Broadway wound up its most recent New York run. But Tony Award-Winning parodist Gerard Alessandrini is back, with a hilarious, all-new, up-to-the-minute edition—Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation. The show comically and musically eviscerates Hadestown, Moulin Rouge, Tootsie, Beetlejuice, this season’s Oklahoma! revival, The Ferryman, the Yiddish Fiddler on the Roof, The Cher Show, Dear Evan Hansen, Frozen, What the Constitution Means to Me, and the new generation of Broadway stars including Ben Platt, Santino Fontana, Billy Porter, Alex Brightman and exciting returns by Bette Midler, Andre de Shields, Bernadette Peters, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and several surprises. Opening September 18th at The Triad.

Michael Tucker’s new play Fern Hill stars Mark Linn-Baker, Mark Blum, Jill Eikenberry, John Glover, Jodi Long, and Ellen Parker at 59E59 Theater A. Three couples in their golden years, thick as thieves, are gathered at Sunny and Jer’s farmhouse to celebrate milestone birthdays that span three decades. The foundation of their long friendship is honesty and support – as well as a commitment to the enjoyment of food, wine and laughter. They’re so close that Sunny suggests that they all move in together—to live and work and assist one another as they grow older. Their companionship is put to the test, however, when a marital betrayal is discovered. The bonds of loyalty and truth are explored in this mature comedy. First preview September 10th, with a September 19th opening.

In an electrifying musical narrative, Tom Morello will share his moving personal story that reveals the making of a committed activist and one of the elite guitar virtuosos of our time in Tom Morello At The Minetta Lane: Words And Music. Opening September 19th.

It’s 1948 when Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty first visits the infamous Nazi Herbert Kappler in the Italian prison where Kappler is serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity. During World War II, the men were adversaries; Kappler was the head of the Gestapo in German-occupied Rome, and Monsignor O’Flaherty was using the cover of Vatican neutrality to shelter and arrange for the escape of thousands of Allied servicemen and Jewish civilians. Kappler placed a bounty on O’Flaherty’s head, but O’Flaherty evaded capture, earning the nickname “The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican.” When these two men meet after the war, profound questions of responsibility and redemption rattle the cages. You can catch Kingfishers Catch Fire at the Irish Repertory Studio Theatre, starting September 11 and opening September 22nd.

By the playwright Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) comes a new play. There is a moment when you want to look ahead to the future, but the past is eating you whole. In Sunday, friends gather for a book group, anxious to prove their intellectual worth, but that anxiety gets the better of any actual discussion as emotional truths come pouring out. At the Atlantic Theater Company/Linda Gross Theater, starting September 4th, opening September 23rd.

In George Bernard Shaw’s epic comedy Caesar & Cleopatra, two of history’s most notoriously clever and sexually charged characters meet and change each other and the world around them. Julius Caesar conquers Egypt and becomes mentor to the young Cleopatra, who is determined to become the queen of legend we all know. Starring Jeff Applegate, Brenda Braxton, Rajesh Bose, Robert Cuccioli, Dan Dominques, Jonathan Hadley, and Teresa Avia Lim. Beginning September 3rd at Theatre One @ Theatre Row with a September 24th opening.

A gang of teenage girls gathers in an abandoned treehouse to summon the ghost of Pablo Escobar. Are they messing with the actual spirit of the infamous cartel kingpin? Or are they really just messing with each other? A rollercoaster ride through the danger and damage of girlhood – the teenage wasteland has never been so much twisted fun in Our Dear Dead Drug Lord. McGinn/Cazale Theatre starting September 11th and opening September 24th.

At the The Duke on 42nd Street the moms at Mommy-Baby Meetup are used to competing — whoever’s the most devoted to her family, has the best-behaved child, and the most satisfied husband wins. But as the chaos of the outside world encroaches on their turf, passive-aggression falls by the wayside, and each mom will have to decide just how much she loves her child. Mothers starts September 13th with a September 25th opening.

Why theatre? What is it for? What is it about? Why? takes these questions, and many others, on a journey that is both dramatic and joyful. The piece allows us to discover that we are not alone in asking these questions and that many great theatre practitioners have been inspired by the exploration of these questions. Playwrights and Directors Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne are involved with a cast consisting of Hayley Carmichael, Kathryn Hunter, and Marcello Magni. Previews begin September 21st with a September 26th opening.

At the age of 64, legendary athlete Diana Nyad inspired the world when she walked onto the shores of Key West after “crossing the Mt. Everest of the earth’s oceans,” becoming the first person in history to make the 111-mile swim from Cuba to Florida without the assistance of a shark cage. In her riveting new play The Swimmer, Nyad shares the heartbreaking setbacks, brushes with death and the victories that kept her going, plunging the audience into the depths of her extraordinary journey. Opening September 26th at the Minetta Lane Theatre

The Green Room takes us to a college theatre green room where a group of friends dream of being … NOT on Broadway … but Off-Broadway! John, Cliff, Anna and Divonne live out complicated lives in their college theatre department. At times, hilarious and heartwarming, but always enlightening and even alarming, this concept musical gives an account of the struggles in finding their place in this 21st Century world. Beginning September 25th at The American Theatre of Actors’ Sargent Theatre with a September 27th opening.

With a minimal set, Katsura Sunshine’s Rakugo features a lone storyteller dressed in kimono, kneeling on a cushion, using only a fan and a hand towel for props, entertaining the audience with a comic monologue followed by a traditional story. At New World Stages Stage II starting September 19th and opening September 28th.

The year is 1929, the month is June. It’s the season when all the Americans invade Paris–and all the Parisians leave town. Fifty Million Frenchman is a classic boy-meets-girl musical set in the city of love introduced the world to such memorable Cole Porter favorites as “You Do Something to Me,” “You’ve Got That Thing,” and “The Tale of the Oyster.” You can catch this charming show at York Theatre at Saint Peter’s starting September 28 with a September 29th opening.

John Plunkett is haunted by memories of a shameful past and shattered life in Dublin Carol at the Irish Repertory Theatre. On Christmas Eve, an unexpected visit from his estranged daughter, Mary, forces John to confront his demons and grapple with his chance at redemption. Beginning September 20th with a October 1st opening. Ciarán O’Reilly directs.

In The New Englanders can you ever really live the life you envisioned? In a mixed race family, a teenaged daughter and her dads are each trying to find happiness. Eisa wants to be the next Lauryn Hill and is struggling to break free of her sleepy New England town where she feels hopelessly trapped. Her fathers are each being pulled in different directions of their own, one trying to re-connect with an old love, the other clinging to the path he always believed would be their future. Starting September 17th at the Manhattan Theatre Club – Stage II, with an October 2nd opening.

Zach is a medieval scholar and devotee of LARP (Live Action Role Playing); Laura ghost-writes romance novels. They meet at the crossroads of the competing realities they create and live in. Round Table is a comedy about pretending to be what you already are. The fun begins September 27th at 59E59 Theater C with a October 6th opening.

In the musical I have been waiting for Joshua Henry, Ciara Renée, Ryan Vasquez, Anoop Desai, Tilly Evans-Krueger, Malik Kitchen, Libby Lloyd, Amber Pickens, Kyle Robinson, Debbie Christine Tjong, and Julius Williams star in The Wrong Man at The Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space/Newman Mills Theater. Book, music, and lyrics by Ross Golan, directed by Thomas Kail. The wrong man meets the wrong woman in the wrong place at the wrong time. Set in Reno, Nevada, The Wrong Man is the story of Duran, a man just scraping by who is framed for a murder he didn’t commit, told through poetic lyrics and haunting melodies. First preview September 18th, with a October 7th opening.

Jeb Kreager, Julia McDermott, Michele Pawk, Zoë Winters, and John Zdrojeski star in Heros Of The Fourth Turning at Playwrights Horizons/Mainstage Theater. It’s nearing midnight in Wyoming, where four young conservatives have gathered at a backyard after-party. They’ve returned home to toast their mentor Gina, newly inducted as president of a tiny Catholic college. But as their reunion spirals into spiritual chaos and clashing generational politics, it becomes less a celebration than a vicious fight to be understood. On a chilly night in the middle of America, Will Arbery’s haunting play offers grace and disarming clarity, speaking to the heart of a country at war with itself. First preview September 13th, opening
October 7th.

Soft Power is an exploration of America’s current place in the world, told through an East-West musical from China’s point of view, in which a theater producer from Shanghai forges a powerful bond with Hillary Clinton. Soft Power is a fever dream of modern American politics amidst global conversations, asking us all – why do we love democracy? And should we? Book and Lyrics by David Henry Hwang with Music, and Additional Lyrics: Jeanine Tesori, directed by Leigh Silverman at The Public Theater/Newman Theater beginning September 24th with a October 15th opening.

Jeb Brown, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Taylor Iman Jones, Lacretta, Megan Lawrence, Ryan McCartan, Will Meyers, Wonu Ogunfowora, David Rossmer, Alysha Umphress, and Kaleb Wells star in the new musical Scotland, PA at the Roundabout Theatre Company – Laura Pels Theatre. This deliciously dark musical comedy, based on the cult film (and the bard’s Macbeth), springs to life in a sleepy Pennsylvania town (population 1,203—and dropping), where a burger-joint manager and his wife cook up a plan to super-size their lives. As their ambitions grow and the bodies fall, the couple finds out just how far they’ll go for a taste of the oh-so-tempting American dream.Music and lyrics by Adam Gwon, with Lonny Price directing. First previews September 14th with a October 15th opening.

Jonathan Groff, Tammy Blanchard, Christian Borle, Tom Alan Robbins, Kingsley Leggs, Ari Groover, Salome Smith, and Joy Woods star in the revival of Little Shop Of Horrors at Westside Theatre Upstairs. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s hit musical will be directed by Michael Mayer
starting September 17th and opening October 17th.

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Off Broadway

The New Group’s “The Seven Year Disappear” Is a Sweet Wonderful Lollipop of Strong Whiskey and Sadness

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Have I got the complicated guy for you?” And with that commentary from one friend to another, The New Group‘s fantastically layered cocktail of whisky and sadness dives in. It’s a deliciously adept remark, related somewhere in the midst of this time-jumping fascination that revels in art and protest; personal and political. Or so The Seven Year Disappear, written with forceful intent and intelligence by Jordan Seavey (Homos, or Everyone in America), tells us. The complication and attraction are stated by one of the many wild and wonderful interactions had by the son and manager of the world-famous performance artist, played to detailed length by the wonderful Cynthia Nixon (“The Gilded Age“; MTC’s The Little Foxes). He, Naphtali, dynamically portrayed by Taylor Trensch (LCT’s Camelot; Broadway’s Hello, Dolly!), is that guy. He’s part of the art, but this time, he has been left out of the loop, abandoned by his mother after vanishing into thin air, as he stood, introducing her to a roomful of donors at an event organized by him to announce a new creation that she has been commissioned for by MoMA.

But, she was gone, yet also, as this play spins forward and back most savagely, she is everywhere. As the timeline zips up and down in the background, giving titles to framed artworks of time, Naphtali tries in his own way to cope with the sudden disappearance and move forward, playing the game, but not aware of the rules. The play, directed with preciseness by Scott Elliott (TNG’s The Seagull/Woodstock, NY), is a masterclass of performance and creation, taught by the incomparable Nixon. She presents herself as both the artist and the art, taking on all the faces of those Trensch’s desperate son engages with during those years; friends, lovers, coworkers, lovers, and flirtations. Nixon digs in with all her might, taking on accents and postures that resonate and reveal both their harshness and their care. It’s clever and fascinating in its construct, especially as it bounces around, unleashing all the responses one could have with such a mother as this.

Taylor Trensch and Cynthia Nixon in The New Group’s The Seven Year Disappear. Photo by Monique Carboni.

And then she returns, suddenly from her disappearance act of art, taking a seat casually, requesting cooperation and involvement, when she has given him neither. Naphtali must confront her absence and neglect, something that has been painted on him from the day he was born, like a canvas. But it all comes to a centerpiece head with a request that baffles him, yet explains so much, without her answering the questions and inquires he has for her. It’s a compelling setup, that delicately transforms itself before us on that meticulously cold-formed stage, courtesy of scenic designer Derek McLane (Broadway’s Moulin Rouge!), with simple yet effective costuming by Qween Jean (TNG’s Black No More), complex and determined lighting by Jeff Croiter (MTC’s Cost of Living), solid and electric sound by Rob Milburn & Michael Bodeen (Broadway’s Sweat), and the meticulously well scrolled out projection design by John Narun (Life Jacket’s Gorey…).

It’s all “part of the art“, we are told by The New Group‘s The Seven Year Disappear, and part of the game, and it works, this sweet lollipop of art and attachment, reconstructing its own brilliantly crafted formula as a way to wrap up the discontent and connection. It’s captivating and fascinating, watching the attachment and anger flourish and recede into the performance art that is at its core. The two relish the wonderfully created interactions, finding layers of complication and attraction to interact with inside an installation of reconciliation and art. The range of ideas unspooled is relentless and ravishing in its determined approach to a mother and a son, and their complicated dance of love and misuse. And I was enthralled.

Cynthia Nixon and Taylor Trensch in The New Group’s The Seven Year Disappear. Photo by Monique Carboni.

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Off Broadway

The Connector at MCC

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Journalism as a background topic seems never to fail to please an audience, from The Front Page to All the President’s Men and Network, and now to The Connector. MCC Theater has delivered a gut-punching story, the kind you’ll be talking about at your next party. The basic plot is simple enough, and a thoroughly capable and engaging cast directed by Daisy Prince tells the story succinctly, crisply and effectively.   

I would be remiss if the set design were not in the spotlight. The title is projected onto a scrim the size of the stage in letters 75% the height of the space moving across like the Times Square Zipper. On this scrim one can see pages of the  titled magazine neatly displayed. This partially obscures the orchestra.   

Banker boxes of paper flank the stage and are used to simulate additional office space. 

Lighting on the floor of the stage helps define the space from office to meeting space to cocktail lounge and works like a part of the set design. Hats off to Beowulf Boritt and Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew for a bit of magic before the actors set foot on the stage. 

Ben Levi Ross and company By Joan Marcus

The audience must confront the following statements throughout, and they arrive like a splash of cold water in the face.   The whole world changed and everything stayed the same. Truth is not about the facts—they can be manipulated.  The whole world changed but the truth remained the same. Who cares if it’s true–is truth the same as fact?   Truth is not what you say it is. We believe what we believe.   

Ben Levi Ross By Joan Marcus

The main character is Ethan Dobson (Ben Levi Ross), a wunderkind whose secondary speciality is the ability to ingratiate himself with everyone of consequence.  He is also an excellent writer. His boss Conrad O’Brien (Scott Bakula) sees in Ethan his younger self and becomes his champion. All this is observed by Robin Martinez (Hannah Cruz), a copy writer who feels neglected and underappreciated.    

Shake these characters up a bit and they could be Perry White, Lois Lane and Clark Kent. It would be a disservice to reveal the ending, but suffice it to say that it is predictable while shocking. Elements of this work could have been ripped from newspapers now, which only underscores the eternal truth of the more things change, the more they remain the same. 

The music by Jason Robert Brown works effectively to tell this tale and is modern and true to the times and topic.  The audience was very receptive to it. Jonathan Marc Sherman’s book is riveting, and Daisy Prince keeps this fast-moving train on track beautifully. The ending is quite moving, and there is an element that could be regarded as a gimmick, but unlike most, it works beautifully and will not soon be forgotten. Nor will this play – see it now! 

The Connector: MCC Theater Space, 511 W 52nd Street, through March 17th.

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Off Broadway

Jonah Off-Broadway at Roundabout Cracks Wide Open Trauma and Repair

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The story that is being told is a complete page-turner. Back and forth, up and around, and deep within, flipping from now to back then in a light flash of repeated verbal moment and some lightning cracks in the time continuum. It’s a fantastically compelling unpacking, these articulate moments of disturbing wonder, playing with frameworks and fantasies that gnaw at our stressful hearts and imagination. We are pulled, sweetly, at first, into the world of Ana, played to perfection by the magnificently detailed Gabby Beans (LCT’s The Skin of Our Teeth), completely and within an instant, wanting and waiting for this tender kind of interaction to blossom, but also realizing she walks too fast and too forward. We want to hold on to this cautious, overly emotional tingling, and gigantically charming awkward fumbling. It can make a young man cry. Or a young woman lean in with hope and faith.

Roundabout Theatre Company‘s Jonah, a new play most vitally and inquisitively written by Rachel Bonds (Goodnight Noboby; The Lonely Few), asks us to follow in the quick footsteps of Ana, begging us to keep up, but falling through doorways with abstract oblivion at a moment’s notice. It’s the tenderest of beginnings, with a crack that opens up a world of problematic trauma and complex formulations. Those trapped constructs, and those “deep deep sick” feelings, sneak inside our senses and leave us wondering where we are moment to moment, and what should we believe.

As directed with clarity and vision by Danya Taymor (Broadway’s Pass Over), the effect is deliberately destabilizing, giving you tenderness and discomfort within moments of each other, with the changing of the guard brought upon by sharp cracks and seizures in the universe. The titular character, Jonah, delicately and dynamically portrayed by the sweetest of creatures, Hagan Oliveras (“American Horror Stories“; Players Theatre’s The Trouble with Dead Boyfriends), runs in pursuit of the electric energy of Ana, trying hard to keep up with this fantastical creature. What is she running to? Or from? It’s the most engaging of beginnings, drawing us forward with awkward longing and a supersonic unseared outreach. We couldn’t want this union more as we say “yeah, yeah, yeah” to their cross-legged flirtation with love and understanding, but there is something that just doesn’t feel real, or maybe right, in their outreach. And an uneasiness starts to sink in.

I like you,” he says, with utter sincerity, and our hearts shimmer open a wee bit more. Jonah plays with our sensibilities and our own longing for this kind of thoughtful spring awakening, until that lighting crack and skipping occurs. Much like on an old-fashioned record player, courtesy of the stellar work of set designer Wilson Chin (MTC’s Cost of Living), lighting by Amith Chandrashaker (MTC’s Prayer for the French Republic), and sound design by Kate Marvin (MCC’s Wolf Play), a fracture comes into play, and we are thrown. Or is it he that is thrown? We are no longer in her dorm room, cozy and awkward, retelling our intricate fantasizes to a wide-eyed young man in love, but somewhere else, trying to survive the brutal hard world of before alongside her stepbrother Danny, played powerfully by Samuel H. Levine (Broadway’s The Inheritance). It doesn’t carry with it that same sense of authentic innocence and safety. It’s dangerous, and uncomfortable, even in the care and protective stance of her stepbrother.

Gabby Beans and Samuel H. Levine in RTC’s Jonah. Photo by Joan Marcus.

I do what I want,” is a refrain the young Ana keeps repeating to the lovestruck Jonah, and at first we believe in the bravado, until we see a different aspect of Ana’s existence, a parallel universe, in a way, where the trap has been set, not by her, but by the world of ‘have and have not’; ‘need and hunger’. “She just got trapped,” she says of her mother, “afraid of what he might do.” She knows this caged framework in a way that few of us can understand, yet maybe the third man that comes knocking on that door, later, in a different place and time, can ask the right question from the correct category of topics; the one that is now fixated on the flame of Ana; the very tall Steven, played to itchy delight by John Zdrojeski (Broadway’s Good Night, Oscar).

It is there in the third where something shifts, where protection and need come together, collide, and shatter on the floor. Ana is working hard to find something that resembles her fantasy, or push the thought away behind her writing and a closed door. But also, maybe she can discover at least a pathway for the opening up and the healing to begin. It’s the cleverest of constructs, looking at trauma and pain from a number of angles and vantage points, all at once, from up above, back and forward, and within such a detailed and unique lyrical unwrapping. Beans is absolutely ingenious in her complicated approach to the parallels, giving us a character worthy of the fixation. Jonah is the key, the ointment to stop the itch, and the pathway to healing.

John Zdrojeski and Gabby Beans in Roundabout Theatre Company’s .Jonah. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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Music

Jason Robert Brown’s The Connector Is Intelligent, Thought Provoking and Musically Seamless

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“The truth is not about the facts – forgive me. The facts can always be manipulated, arranged, massaged – We are not purveyors of facts, we are tellers of truths.” …..Or are we?

The Connector now playing at MCC’s Newman Mills Theater space, has twice been extended and in all honesty should move to Broadway this season. If it did it would stand a good chance of being nominated or winning Best Musical, Best Score, Best Orchestration, Best Direction, Best Lead Actor and many of the technical awards. I wouldn’t be surprised if it sweeps the Drama Desk and The Outer Critics Circle Awards come award season.

Set in 1996 at a newspaper called “The Connector”, this unrivaled purveyor of “the truth and nothing but the truth,” is about to be put to the test. Enter Ethan Dobson (the remarkable Ben Levi Ross), fresh out of Princeton who’s arrived with talent, guts and a smarmy style.

Scott Bakula, Ben Levi Ross By Joan Marcus

Ethan has long admired and longs to work for the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Conrad O’Brien (welcome back to the fabulous Scott Bakula), who is being overrun by new owners, who care more about circulation and the color turquoise than facts.

Jessica Molaskey By Joan Marcus

The first person Ethan meets and the voice of a collective conscience is Robin Martinez (normally played by Hannah Cruz, but at my performance Ashley Pérez Flanagan). At first attracted to Ethan, Robin starts to see the cracks, as does fact checker Muriel (a layered performance by Jessica Molaskey). Right from the start, she does not like or trust Ethan. Nor do we. In a strange way, this almost seems like a musicalized version of “The Talented Mr. Ripley”.

As Conrad takes Ethan under his wing, we see three of his stories, each done in a different musical style. The first is about an eccentric West Village scrabble player (the terrific Max Crumm). With a “Rhythm of Life” feel, Ethan becomes an overnight success with circulation increasing and a fan by the name of Mona Bland (a memorable Mylinda Hull) who will end up being his downfall.

Fergie Philippe, Hannah Cruz, and Ben Levi Ross Photo: Joan Marcus

The next story is about the take down of the mayor of Jersey City, done in rap/ gangland style that gets him a nomination for the prestigious National Magazine Award. As his source Willis, Fergie Philippe gives his all, but the problem we soon find out, is that though the story is sensational, there are gaping holes in the facts, which Muriel, Robin and Mona glaringly see. 

In the end who is Ethan really? What is truth and what is fact? Does the public really care or do they just want sensationalism? Has the world really gotten over its sexism? It’s racialism? Sadly, I don’t think so. Everything becomes the movie of the week and then goes away until the next big scandal.

The Connector was conceived and directed by Daisy Prince, who does a remarkable job and asks some really intelligent questions. She has also gathered a fabulous cast, who makes this show seem real, relevant and up to date.

Ben Levi Ross By Joan Marcus

Ben Levi Ross will remind you of Jesse Eisenberg. He is loaded with talent. Not only does he possess a vocal prowess that is unmatched, his nuances and phenomenal acting choices make him so watchable. He is like an onion slowly peeling away each delicate layer. He is brilliant.


As Robin, I saw the understudy who is about to take over the role, Ashley Pérez Flanagan. She sings and acts well, but lacks some of the nuances that originally made me want to see this show. I fell in love with the song “Cassandra” in 2017 and either Jason Robert Brown rewrote some of the notes or they were different in the production I saw. This song is pivotal to the show, as the lyrics talk about how women writers are written off.

“Half the stories of the world are left unwritten, half the stories have been lost along the way. And so the people of the world will not encounter, anything but one perspective, one reflection, one directive, male and white and unenlightened, every day. It’s easy for you, it’s easy for you and I’m missing it”

These are the lyrics by Jason Robert Brown for “Cassandra”. Not only is his music rich in rhythm and style, but it reaches into your soul to take capture. His lyrics hit at the heart of pain, truth, anger and honesty. Each song is a playlet with character-driven narratives and stand on their own. Smartly his band is electric and musically I could sit through this show every night of the week and hear new emotional tugs. I am so excited to announce the album will be released in late spring by Concord Theatricals Recording, because I want to listen to these songs again and again. A plus is JRB is on the piano playing with his band.

Jonathan Marc Sherman’s book is funny, terrifying and taps on timely issues, however I did want more as to the why’s and psychology of Ethan, but maybe that’s the point, we don’t understand the why’s and never will.

Not only is the show wonderfully done, but the raw masterful set by Beowulf Boritt, lighting by and projection design by Janette Oi-Suk Yew and choreography by Karla Puno Garcia are shear perfection.

You will not be able to stop thinking about this show, that is full of thought provoking ideas on journalistic integrity and the difference between fact and truth. This is a show not to be missed and that’s a fact.

The Connector: MCC Theater Space, 511 W 52nd Street, through March 17th.

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Off Broadway

Opening Night of A Sign Of The Times

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The York Theatre Company production of A Sign of the Times, opened officially at New World Stages. A Sign of the Times, is a new musical featuring the songs of Petula Clark, Lesley Gore, Dusty Springfield and other classic pop hits of the 1960s. It features a book by Lindsey Hope Pearlman based on an original story by Richard J. Robin. Directing is Gabriel Barre, with music direction and orchestrations by Joseph Church and choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter.

On the red carpet were Lindsey Hope Perlman,Gabriel Barre., Richard J Robin, Joseph Church (opening picture)

Lee Roy Reams,

Lee Roy Reams, Lorna Dallas Brown

Michael D’Angora, Amy Hillner Larsen

Kristofer Buckle-make up artist

Jim Morgan

Gabriel Barre, Richard J. Robin

 

 

 

 

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