Non-Registered Critics: Lovell Estell III

Feb

Hamlet The Rock Musical

Bill Castellino helms a cast of 16 that for the most part do a good job with a very hefty line-up of songs. But the production does have its fault lines. With this much singing, there are segments where the vocals aren’t all they should be. In fact, at times the singing is downright flat, while the music all but eclipses the narrative and gravitas of the story (this is Shakespeare, after all!). On balance, however, the ensemble does a good job. The best singing of the evening is done by Fatima El Bashir as Ophelia, who sings like an angel, and Carly Thomas Smith, who plays Gertrude. Also worthy of mention in this regard is Payson Lewis as Hamlet.

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Dec

Defenders

There is much to admire about this play, but it is far from effective.

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Dec

Unraveled

The constant shifts in time, in conjunction with the awkward “split screen,” are often confusing, and they fail to convincingly or effectively advance a coherent narrative...

Cast performances under the direction of Steve Jarrad are all satisfactory.

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Sep

In Circles

Like her other dramatic works (which the author preferred to call “landscapes”), it’s an eccentric piece that might not appeal to everyone. Stein is cryptic and nonsensical, and the volley of words, expressions, puns and allusions that seem to come out of nowhere can make for frustrating listening. But for those who are familiar with her work, it offers entertainment and laughs, augmented by the buzzing energy and imagination of veteran director David Schweizer...

Grimes doesn’t miss a note during this 80-minute piece, which showcases a variety of music and dance styles. The ensemble is quite good, their performance augmented by the slick choreography (Kate Coleman). Equally impressive is Chu-Hsuan Chang’s lighting schema.

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Sep

Our Lady of 121st Street

The production showcases some good performances. Director Adam Chambers infuses a palpable and compelling hip-hop aesthetic via dance and music, and it all nimbly unfolds on Madilyn Durrie’s simple yet effective urban-inspired set, accentuated with red brick, graffiti, and street signs.

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Jul

100 PLANES

Director Elizabeth V. Newman draws good performances from the cast, but this is a problematic play that offers little in the way of compelling theater.

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Jun

Wait Until Dark

This is an extremely talky play with a host of transparent plot maneuverings, and success depends a lot on the slow, palpable ratcheting up of tension and menace. But director Kenneth Rogers hasn’t managed these well, and the pacing is ponderous.

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Jun

Loot

This is a straightforward production, guided with a steady hand by director Bart DeLorenzo, who draws solid performances from the cast. - RECOMMENDED

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May

Bronco Billy - The Musical

If you haven’t seen the 1980 movie Bronco Billy with Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke (or can’t remember if you did), don’t worry. With a book by Dennis Hackin (who also wrote the novel and the movie’s screenplay), and music and lyrics by Chip Rosenbloom and John Torres, with additional lyrics by Michele Brourman, this world premiere musical version, smartly directed by Hunter Bird, is a heck of a lot funnier and way more enjoyable. - RECOMMENDED

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Apr

Boxing Lessons

It's a good set-up for laughs, and Bunzel mines it for all it's worth, in conjunction with a carousel of zany plot twists and revelations. It's mostly funny and entertaining, capably directed by Jack Stehlin, whose cast turn in spirited performances. John Iacovelli's cabin interior is superbly crafted, and Josephine Wang does an effective job with the lighting schema.

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Mar

THE ELEPHANT MAN

This is a physically demanding role, and Vitorino does a very impressive job with it. Other performances are equally convincing. Cohen's clever direction makes for an atmospherically rich production, a lot of it due to Bo Tindell's excellent lighting schema. Lillian George provides a handsome gallery of props which function as sets, while the costumes by Melissa Marks, though not especially flashy, are nevertheless effective. - RECOMMENDED

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Mar

Hamlet

Director Matthew Leavitt's updated take on the Bard's famous tragedy, though far from perfect, offers some enjoyable quirks and surprises. This, however, is not a Hamlet that will resonate especially well with those who are new to the play, or, alas, with diehard purists.

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Feb

The Diary Of Anne Frank

This is not a polished production. The acting, on balance, is passable, but the performances often seem mired in the staged-reading mode at the play's beginning. The most glaring liability is Ochoa, whose performance is too thick with girlish exuberance, and fails to capture or project Anne's commanding precociousness. Ineffective also is Zimmerman's jagged pacing, especially noticeable during Act II.

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Feb

Death House

RECOMMENDED - Death House is not a perfect play, but it packs a wallop. Some of the plot twists are awkward, and the first act has too much padding. Michael Peretzian does a fine job of directing, and he draws solid, convincing performances from his cast. Derrick McDaniel provides a highly effective lighting schema.

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Nov

Showpony

Performances are quite good under the direction of Tom Ormeny, who does a superb job of overseeing the manic energy on display. Evan Bartoletti's set and Lauri Fitzsimmons' costumes are first-rate. Carol Doehring provides the rich and effective lighting schema. - RECOMMENDED

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Nov

Gray People (2019 Extension)

As grim as this scenario is, the playwright cleverly mixes in a hefty amount of comic relief. Yet, as well written as the script is, it could benefit greatly from paring down, especially during a terrific, well-crafted finale, whose impact is partially blunted by unnecessary dialogue. All performances are energetic and solidly convincing under the direction of Sebastian Muñoz. - RECOMMENDED

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Oct

Turn of the Screw

Whether the ghosts are real or figments of the governess's overheated psyche has been a question surrounding this work for a very long time. The stage adaptation gives the nudging impression that they are products of a frazzled mind. This is not an easy play to stage effectively, and unfortunately there is little scare or terror in director Don Williams' surprisingly bland production. Spann doesn't handle his roles with consistent credibility, and at times it is a task to understand what Sulzberger is saying because she very often speaks in a breathless flurry. The production would also benefit greatly from more imagination by Williams. Johnny Patrick Yoder's eerie lighting schema is effective and works well with Merve Dobai's sparse set design. and Michael Mullen's costumes are attractive.

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Oct

OTHELLO

This is a barebones production that uses a few props, generic costuming, and the venue's capacious floor as a stage. As with most, if not all comparably scaled productions, the onus falls heavily on the actors, and except for Lozano the acting is consistently patchy.

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Aug

MARIAN, OR THE TRUE TALE OF ROBIN HOOD

The play, by Adam Szymkowicz, is imaginatively directed by Christopher Johnson... It's a fast-paced, sometimes confusing 99-minute ride that includes many comical turns, a few “naughty” bits, and a hefty display of sword play and quarterstaff clashes (effectively choreographed by Jen Albert and Dawn “Sam” Alden). The script could use trimming, but the show is nevertheless entertaining and fun. - RECOMMENDED

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Aug

THE MOTHER F**KER WITH THE HAT

Guirgis cleverly drops these characters into the arena and lets them claw away at each other until they are stripped bare by their own self-destructive flaws and deceptions, and he does so with hefty doses of devilish humor and gutter level language that might offend those with tender ears (hey, this is New York, and these characters aren't patricians). Director Gloria Gifford's staging is simple and straightforward, making effective use of the venue's cavernous interior. The expansive stage is constructed into three parts that neatly function as differing locales (smartly arranged by Lucy Walsh and Chad Doreck). There is, however, a need here for sharper pacing. There are stretches that grind along interminably and detract from what otherwise is a good production. Performances are excellent, particularly those by Bowers and Walker. Rounding out the cast is Benito Paje as Cousin Julio.

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