Anthony Pennino

About:  Anthony Pennino is a professor of literature and theatre at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ. He is passionate about how the theatre can be a medium for political and social change. He finds a new play or a production of a classic equally enjoyable. A Fulbright scholar with a Ph.D. in ... Read more Read less
Reviews (26)
The Modernist Beat

"The modernity that is very much part of the new space’s design stands in compelling opposition to the piece’s foundation in antiquity...It is hard to imagine this show in the hands of other performers...They come together to create catharsis. Make no mistake. That is a difficult thing to experience in a theatrical setting. It requires attention in an age where attentions easily wander. I emerged from the evening somewhat exhausted but also exhilarated by what I had experienced." Full Review

This Is Modern Art
East Village
The Modernist Beat

"A lot weight to place on the slender shoulders of a play with an 85-minute running time. I am happy to report that play and production are more than up to the Herculean task...What Goodwin and Coval convey with a crystal clear clarity is how this particular act of graffiti was about reclaiming a space, about sharing a work of art with the people, all the people. It is truly revolutionary...'This Is Modern Art' fully engages in how space in this country is racialized." Full Review

An Ordinary Muslim
East Village
The Modernist Beat

"Chaudry nicely avoids the melodramatic paths his tale could take and focuses on the day-to-day psychological toll of what it means to be a Muslim...Akeem seethes with anger. The presentation of that anger, however, comes across as inconsistent, especially in the beginning of the second act...The structure of the play does not clarify that confusion...Chaudry, however, is revelatory with the presentation of his female characters...Bonney provides vibrant direction." Full Review

Fire and Air
East Village
The Modernist Beat

"The whole is not greater than the sum of the parts. And what should have been a compelling evening of theatre rarely engages the attention of its audience...The production moves quickly through the years with little context or sense of how the cataclysmic events of the time are impacting the art. The intended portrait of Diaghilev as visionary and genius fails to connect. We are told that he is brilliant, but we are never shown that he is...The cast is game, but they are given little to do." Full Review

Mankind
Midtown W
The Modernist Beat

"A gonzo nuts completely off-its-rocker laugh-out-loud tragedy, and I mean that as a compliment. It was near impossible to predict how the plot would unfold from scene to scene...The dark comedy dissects media culture, religion, and, most importantly, the permanence of patriarchy...O’Hara slyly builds a world where men continue to speak for women, even if they are not present...The ensemble of six men is uniformly excellent." Full Review

Afterglow
Midtown W
The Modernist Beat

“An innovative work that represents a new chapter in the American LGBTQ theatrical tradition...By placing the erotic moment at the beginning of the play, Gelman acknowledges the history of his sub-genre and moves beyond...Ultimately, the play, while having special appeal and resonance to a gay audience, speaks to all...All three members of the cast portray their flawed characters simply and honestly.” Full Review

Mary Jane
East Village
The Modernist Beat

“It was an incredibly compelling piece of theatre...It is a great play and production...Herzog has found a gifted collaborator in director Anne Kauffman, who maintains a laser-like focus on the journey of Mary Jane...The play rests on the shoulders of its incredible cast...A masterful turn of writing...If it may be said that a work of art has a soul, then this is such a work.” Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"Burton’s ghost is happy...What Isaac and Gold have crafted here is the closest we are ever going to get in the 21st century to that landmark production...Gold just focuses on the language, the narrative, and forming an ensemble that will fully inhabit the world of the play. He succeeds...Isaac's is fully as realized a performance as we are likely to get...He is surrounded by a cast equal to his talents...This is a celebration of 'Hamlet'...It needs to be seen." Full Review

Terezin
Midtown W
The Modernist Beat

“Tolkien bites off more than he can chew...Too much time is given over to the family dysfunction of the commandant and his son, which plays more like soap opera than tragedy. The dialogue varies between anachronistic and ham-fisted…All of these issues stem from the core problem of attempting to cram in too much material so that shorthand, indication, and stereotypes are needed to move us from Point A to Point B. There is, however, a good play lying here, waiting to be born." Full Review

Indecent
Midtown W
The Modernist Beat

“A compelling, indelible work of theatre. Working with a cast of seven (that feels much larger) and three musicians, Taichman gives the play an epic feel…The play moves seamlessly across the years and miles. There is not much in the way of star turns for the cast of chameleons for together they bring ‘God of Vengeance’ to life…If ‘Indecent’ has a weakness, then it would be that it has three endings.” Full Review

Sweat
Midtown W
The Modernist Beat

"Even though I was fully aware of its gut-wrenching conclusion this second time, I still shed a tear when it arrived. 'Sweat' should be required viewing for anyone living in our republic – it is that important...What Nottage has constructed is an American play for the ages, a tragedy of the American dream that would be appreciated by the likes of Arthur Miller and Clifford Odets...Simply see it." Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"There is nothing noble about 'Joan of Arc: Into the Fire'...The show often feels like an endurance test. Musically, the first 45 minutes are repetitive. Most of the songs are exposition...Alex Timbers offers uninspired direction with a combination of slow-motion fight choreography under a strobe light...The cast performs herculean labors to overcome the deficiencies in writing and directing...Sadly, 'Joan of Arc Into the Fire' is simply not worth your time." Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"Not as fully a realized piece in a socio-political sense as, say, 'The Piano Lesson.' Further, the concluding two scenes feel rushed. Nonetheless, the play has many pleasures...Dirden and Thompson give as startling and unvarnished performance as any that can be found on Broadway right now...Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson keeps the direction of the two-hander scenes – the heart and soul of the play – crisp and energized...'Jitney' earns its place in the canon." Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"His plays are the poetry of the people – the people that most works of American culture refuse to see – and his great gift is to take the language of the streets and transform it into music...The revival of 'Our Lady of 121st Street' is a propulsive production...The music of Guirgis relies on rapid-fire dialogue and idiosyncratic monologues. They are entertaining, shocking, funny...The production has assembled an ensemble of actors that understands that the language is active." Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"A remarkably resonant play for the present moment...Rachel Chavkin keeps the proceedings crisp, clean, and clear. She expertly blends anachronistic elements into the historical setting to anchor the audience to the fact that though the events portrayed are historical they are relevant to our contemporary political discourse. She employs a tight ensemble of six actors while disposing of the original play’s conceit of having multiple actors play the same role." Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"As a performance, there is much skill in evidence...This energy is quite entertaining in moments, but it does not add up too much. What we are given is the CliffNotes version of the play, moving with all haste from Chekhovian trope to Chekhovian trope. But none of it lands emotionally as we have no time to linger...I wish the adaptation had not been so literal – i.e. trying to cram everything into 90 minutes – but it have pushed for a more nuanced innovation of its own." Full Review

The Modernist Beat

“‘Farinelli and The King’ is a not work of power, but of peace...This is exactly the kind of theatre we need...The governing idea here is that the magic of the theatre can offer sanctuary and solace...Van Kampen skimps on the details of Farinelli’s harrowing childhood and his complex relationship with his brother. It hardly matters. One goes to ‘Farinelli and the King’ to have the weight of the twenty-first century taken off the shoulders for a couple of hours and to find solace in beauty.” Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"There are some dated elements to McNally’s script, but much of it remains surprisingly relevant in part because the playwright did not construct a realistic work...It is in ambiguity that the plays finds its resonance, particularly a year into the Trump Era...The ensemble moves seamlessly from the ridiculous to the realistic...Throughout, Gow finds the humanity that underscores all the character’s actions, and thus finds the tragic in the play’s final moments." Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"The revival of this work currently playing at the Signature does full justice to the script. Indeed, it feels more relevant now than it did in the waning days of the Clinton Administration...The playwright dazzles with easy elisions of the sacred and sacrilegious, but all the while he is laying the foundation of his moral inquiry – and that is what lasts...When theatre is doing its job – as 'Jesus Hopped The 'A' Train' surely is – then it communicates what it means to be human." Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"Always daring, always pushing the envelope...Parks strives to inculcate the principles of Brecht within an American vernacular. She succeeds...The theatrical experience is often dizzying...The work conveys the terrible cost of a society bound by hierarchies of class and gender...Despite the bleakness, the play is often funny...Not always an easy play to sit through, but it is a vital, necessary evening of theatre that further cements Parks’ earned reputation as one of our leading playwrights." Full Review

Occasionally Nothing
East Village
The Modernist Beat

for a previous production “The writing here is spare, brutal, and emotionally resonate. Menna has imbued her work with a musicality for both the words and the long silences that fall in between...Menna’s dialogue crackles with energy and wit...The play takes a turn and lands an emotional wallop on the audience...Dumeng infuses an elegiac tone into the work to stunning effect...It speaks to the dark shadows of the 21st-century in a vibrant and yes comic voice. It should be seen." Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"A mixed bag...Metcalf's scenes with Houdyshell crackle with wit and an undercurrent of tension and loss...Condola Rashad as Emmy offers a winning presence, but she cannot resolve the contradictions written into her role...Cooper seemed completely at sea...The fault though lies with the script. Metcalf and Houdyshell simply steamrolled over the play’s weaknesses, while Cooper could not resolve them with his process...The play simply did not know what it wanted to be." Full Review

The Hairy Ape
Upper E Side
The Modernist Beat

"A superlative production...It should also spark a revision of how we receive Eugene O’Neill’s work in the twenty-first century...As relevant today as the drama of Lynn Nottage’s 'Sweat'...Cannavale is a wonder...Director Richard Jones deserves a standing ovation in his own right. The production was flawless from the character work with the actors to the design elements to the production logistics...From start to finish, it was a dazzling achievement." Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"Director Alberto Bonilla and his ensemble focus on developing strong, complex, and believable characters...What I look for in a Shakespeare production is to be shown something new or surprising in a canon I am all too familiar with. Bonilla, Pendleton, Davis, and Macleod made me want to spend time with these characters, and they found something both unexpected and deeply satisfying in the construction." Full Review

The Object Lesson
East Village
The Modernist Beat

"More a meditation on the place of things in our lives rather than a piece with a clear linear narrative arc. Which is fine. Different can be good...His training at École Jacques Lecoq in Paris was very much on display, and it served the performer and his construct well...The ending, however, was something of a let down. The final vignette really did not provide a satisfying coda...That point of criticism aside, 'The Object Lesson' is very much a worthwhile evening of theatre." Full Review

Yen
West Village
The Modernist Beat

"What sets it apart is a that it is just a socio-economic investigation but a moral indictment as well...Yes, conditions in council housing, or projects, is bad. That is easily agreed. Here is where she pierces the heart. It is already too late, she seems to be saying...The acting is exceptional...For American audiences used to closure and the conclusion of their dramas, 'Yen' is not always easy, but ultimately that is what makes it such a rewarding and necessary evening of theatre." Full Review