Non-Registered Critics: Neal Weaver

Oct

The Bench, A Homeless Love Story

Recomended - because of Galinsky's exuberance and skill, his characters…their energy, resilience, resourcefulness and determination are their saving grace as they struggle to survive and pursue some kind of redemption.

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Oct

The Gin Game

Playwright Colburn cannily wrings every ounce of comedy from Martin's bad temper, creating a pair of richly memorable characters by filling in their back-story and revealing what they have in common. Along the way, he examines the plight of seniors stuck, sometimes unwillingly, in old age homes. Director Christian Lebano captures every available nuance and draws terrific performances from his actors. - RECOMMENDED

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Sep

Old Clown Wanted

Under the meticulous guidance of Romanian director Florizel Fatulescu, all three actors perform with exuberance, abandon and skill. (John Achorn is credited as clowning consultant.) Amanda Martin created the colorful and eccentric clown costumes, Jeff Rack designed the set, Bosco Flanagan provided the lighting, and John Zalewski designed the sound. - RECOMMENDED

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Sep

Time Stands Still

Director Joel Zwick has assembled a fine cast and directs them with sure-handed fidelity, using songs like “We'll Meet Again” and “I'll Be Seeing You” to bind the scenes together. Pacent captures Elizabeth's vulnerability as well as her fierce independence and ruthless critical intelligence. Zwick underlines the shock of a man who's discovering that his supposedly imperishable relationship with his partner is perishable after all, while Urcioli scores as the editor who considers both partners as his friends and strives to be loyal to both as their paths diverge. And Kelly Fischer employs considerable finesse as Mandy, Richard's blond bimbo wife, who becomes serious and responsible when faced with motherhood. Chris Winfield provides the handsome loft set, and J. Kent Insay created the light and sound design. - RECOMMENDED

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Aug

Hershey Felder: Beethoven

Felder is as skillful as an actor as he is at the keyboard, and director Joel Zwick has melded narration, music, and biographical detail into a seamless dramatic entity. - RECOMMENDED

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Jul

Mayakovsky and Stalin

Writer-director Mednick gives us an abstracted, non-linear, and formalized picture of intriguing events in Russian life. He employs a Chorus (Max Faugno) to permit him to speak in his own voice, but the Chorus is also characterized as Kirov, a faithful Stalin follower who's loyal to his master till the master no longer finds him useful, and has him eliminated, like so many before and after him. There is much intellectual debate among the characters, which tends to undermine the dramatic thrust of the piece. Mednick has assembled an able cast, including Rhonda Aldrich as Lilya's mother, Alexis Sterling as her sister Elsa, and Ann Colby Stocking as her faithful but helpless maid.

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Jul

ALL MY SONS

As Joe, Combs admirably captures a man who can't accept or acknowledge the magnitude of his own guilt. And Frank's Kate is a woman who can't allow herself to admit the truth because the result would be unbearable. Parraga-Wills' Chris is a passionate idealist traumatized by the emerging facts. And Schoenecker's Ann is a young woman riddled with anxiety because she possesses the final bit of incriminating evidence that the others don't know about. Helen O'Brien creates a potent figure as an ambitious and mercenary wife, and Bruce Nehlsen provides an engaging cameo as her amiable doctor husband. - RECOMMENDED

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Jun

RUMORS

Director Doug Engalla has assembled a top-notch cast of comic actors, including Kent Butler as Lenny Ganz, whose car is almost totaled by the red sports car. Cheryl Crosland scores comic points as his disenchanted, acid-tongued wife. - RECOMMENDED

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Jun

Long Day's Journey Into Night

Director Richard Eyre gives the piece a potent and dynamic production, nimbly capturing the humor that is the play's saving grace and pushing all the emotions to their limits. RECOMMENDED

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May

The Tempest

There are some solid performances and the production is not without charm, but in the end it doesn't show us anything about the play that we didn't know already.

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May

Sex

I suspect that West's play is better than it appears to be here. Director Sirena Irwin clearly didn't trust the text and felt obliged to trick it out with artificial gimmicks, stylization, and presentational techniques rather than letting it speak for itself.

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Apr

BELLEVILLE

Herzog's script is cannily constructed, and the characters are sketched in acid. But both Anna and Zach are so dishonest, morally compromised, and unpleasant that it gets harder and harder to care about them. When the combat turns toward actual violence, one wishes it had come sooner. And the endlessly protracted ending becomes seriously exasperating.

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Apr

DEATHTRAP

Director Jules Aaron gives the piece a slick, finely articulated production, aided by an able cast. - RECOMMENDED

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Apr

Pigs and Chickens

Director Kevin Comartin gives the piece a brisk and lively production, and he has cast it well. All the performances are expert and funny. Amanda Kneehans designed the rather minimalist set, and David Boman contributed the useful sound design.

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Apr

The Night Forlorn (or Waitin' on Godsford)

Nevil's script is funny and imaginative, and director Arden Teresa Lewis seems to have a deep affinity for the material, carefully teasing out all the comic possibilities, and she's well-served by an able cast. Beaver and Downing make an excellent comedy team as two pals constantly sharing hopes and plans, yet incapable of any real action: their occupation is, simply, waiting —for fate to take them in hand. - RECOMMENDED

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Apr

The Madres

Walker's play begins in a fairly conventional way but builds up a strong head of steam as it progresses, culminating in in a harrowing, gut-wrenching climax at the shower for Belen's expected baby. And director Sara Guerrero has assembled an exemplary cast. Ortiz creates an indelible portrait of a woman passionately attempting to protect her child, while as Diego Pimentel is impressive as a smug, hateful true believer.

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Apr

Through The Eye of a Needle

Jami Brandli's dramedy seems uncertain about what sort of play it wants to be. Initially it plays like a sitcom — albeit with serious issues — about a bunch of engaging eccentrics. Then the revelations begin, and as dark secrets are unveiled the characters grow in depth and dignity. There are genuinely touching and provocative moments. But then things veer back into sitcom mode, with all problems neatly resolved before the final curtain. This makes for an ending that is emotionally satisfying, if not totally convincing. RECOMMENDED

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Apr

Auto Draft reviewed by

Nevil's script is funny and imaginative, and director Arden Teresa Lewis seems to have a deep affinity for the material, carefully teasing out all the comic possibilities, and she's well-served by an able cast. - RECOMMENDED

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Feb

Dessa Rose

Dessa Rose is a rich and satisfying musical that deserves to be better known than it is. And it is performed with spirit and passion, particularly by Tabb and Carlson. There is fine work by all the principals, who are ably supported by a large ensemble. The barebones production is meticulously directed by James Esposito. And by eschewing the elaborate trappings of a Broadway musical, it throws into high relief the strength of the tale it is telling. - RECOMMENDED

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Feb

The Watsons go to Birmingham

The piece contains some rich material, and it is well-acted, particularly by Smith and Ivy. But it also has some serious problems. Jackson's dramaturgy, which breaks the action into myriad small scenes, is a bit unsophisticated.

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