Non-Registered Critics: Dana Martin

Feb

The Father

Playwright Florian Zeller keeps the action intentionally disorienting. Just as a scene comes into focus, the audience is abruptly, repeatedly thrust into darkness. The effect moves from exciting to disorienting to irritating. The story is fractured, abrupt and sometimes repetitive, constructed to reflect a scattered, unreliable, disintegrating memory. Faces and identities of those who surround and care for Andre become interchangeable. Scenes lurch, seemingly indiscriminately, back and forth through time. It’s difficult to distinguish reality from the hazing effects of André’s advancing dementia.

 - RECOMMENDED

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Dec

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET: A Live Musical Radio Show

The actors create ambient sound effects throughout: ringing phones, slamming doors, footsteps and poured coffee. These are never short on charm. The radio play itself meanders in and out of the featured story, depleting any sort of central focus. The show clips along nicely in the first act, but the ballad-heavy second act loses considerable steam and energy and finds several of the performers vocally tired. The performances are charmingly earnest, but there’s simply too much material.

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Nov

Fruition

Fruition certainly sets a definitive tone but it’s hard to get a clear sense of any of the characters. Character development often takes a backseat to plot. The threat of violence and danger looms heavily in almost every moment. But Fruition’s most compelling ones happen between the bouts of violence and danger, when the characters are simply attempting to connect with one another at the risk of truly being seen. What could possibly be more frightening?

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Nov

Romeo and Juliet in Hell

Originally produced at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Romeo and Juliet in Hell retains its structural simplicity and driven energy, both of which serve its current incarnation. It’s a fun, fast-paced screwball comedy reserved for Bill’s most famous dead heroes.

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Oct

Charlotte Stay Close

Charlotte Stay Close doesn’t offer any sort of resolve or cathartic loving send off, just bickering until the bitter end. Typical family drama.

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Oct

Never Ever Land

Never Ever Land has all the elements of an intensely dramatic story but never narrows its focus: Its most crucial and dramatic events are only referred to in conversation. None of the characters as written are especially likable or redeeming and the story’s most important character is never seen or heard. The accused remains comfortably anonymous while the victims are forced to live with silent acceptance. The truth remains obscured by greed and blinded by the prospect of fame. There are no heroes and no justice — only victims of a selfish kind of love.

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Aug

Fefu and Her Friends

Director Denise Blasor finds the play in fits and starts. The production is at its best during its more up-close, intimate moments.

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Jul

Son of Semele presents MEN ON BOATS

Men On Boats uniquely captures the thrill of adventure and the prospect of discovery, with the hope of being remembered. But the play’s larger theme speaks to inclusivity: Representation matters. It’s almost as if we’re on the threshold of something completely new and undiscovered, while keenly aware that many have been here before.

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Jun

FEELING LUCKY

There’s no doubt that Fife can construct a scene: the dialogue is succinct, the conflicts are huge and the structure of each scene is solid. The text is written to appeal to a younger audience. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the female-identifying characters moved away from sexual prowess as their first line of defense/communication. Direction by Yuval Shrem is concise. He keeps the pace tight which drives the work and serves the comedy well.

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Jun

Boxing Your Demons

Ryan Jackson’s tender and ever optimistic Peter is the play’s touchstone and by far the most sympathetic character. Matt Soson’s Guy is the quintessential hard-bodied, super intense fitness instructor who will do whatever it takes to get you on the right path toward fitness. Allegra Masters’ Sheila is appropriately layered, and she finds a nice balance between absurdity and authenticity. Lighting design by Sohail e. Najafi is fabulous. Najafi uses practical lighting as well as projected images and video to create a compelling and visually stimulating world.

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Jun

The Institute for The Opposite of Longing

The Institute provides only momentary relief — a temporary replacement for what’s most blatantly and painfully absent. It’s an unsettling story told by Beamish and Peters in a creepily gratifying fashion.

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Jun

Mil Grus

Mil Grus is as ridiculous as it is delightful. The show is largely improvised so each performance is a new incarnation of nonsensical absurdity. Nothing is too sacred or too serious. How refreshing.

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Jun

Ready Steady Yeti Go

David Jacobi’s new play Ready Steady Yeti Go is a satirical comedy that narrows its focus on a white community’s response to a hate crime told through a middle-schooler’s point of view. The Rogue Machine’s snappy, playful production maintains poignancy despite the script’s ultimate shortcomings.

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Jun

A Streetcar Named Desire

Director Jack Heller hones a classic, straightforward version of Streetcar. The play’s arc and tempo hit all the right notes, while the production design is appropriate and the acting ranges from decent to excellent...

Dance On’s production features a cast considerably more mature than the characters they portray, inevitably altering the play’s intended meaning and inadvertently creating a new and unintended narrative. The characters’ actions and behavior become a bit ridiculous rather than young, fiery and forgivable. It’s just not the play Williams intended.

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Mar

The Mother of Henry

Fernández uses gently provocative storytelling to convey the horrors of war from a mother's point of view. Though her frequent use of magical realism is refreshing, the script is sometimes weighted down by frivolous domestic drama. The play maintains a staunchly optimistic tone despite the grim socio-political realities, and despite the difficulties Connie faces. - RECOMMENDED

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Feb

Rabbit Hole

2Cents Theatre Group's current incarnation of Rabbit Hole is decent, with the potential to be exceptional.

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Feb

Last Call

Last Call is more unsettling than it is darkly funny. The intriguing part of the story is the relationship between the aging, ailing parents and the way the family copes with their imminent decline. But the story spends most of its time focusing on the quibbles of the petty, immature siblings. We never get to the heart, the pain or the humor of the story — the kids are too busy bickering.

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Jan

Forever Brooklyn

A nostalgic, unsentimental flashback to simpler times, the story is predominately told through silly, satirical song spoofs and sweet-but-surface impersonations. While the storytelling is often charming, the script ultimately lacks chutzpah.

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Dec

middle8

Middle8 certainly shows sparks of promise; the acting is good and the music is grand. But the story's many loose ends dilute the play's overall impact. Ultimately though, it's a tale as painfully ordinary as it is relatable: some dreams just don't come true.

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Nov

KING LEAR

King Lear at Zombie Joe's Underground feels like a visit to your crazy uncle's house —dramatic, quick and weirdly comforting.

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