Curtis Russell

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Reviews (37)
Tootsie (NYC)
Midtown W
Exeunt Magazine

“’Tootsie’ makes sound business sense as an adaptation property...The film’s spine remains largely intact...As a case study of a dumb guy becoming slightly less dumb about what gals go through, the play works like gangbusters. This may not be the story many want to hear right now, but it’s the most fun I’ve had at the theater in months...The score feels more like pastiche than vintage Yazbek...Yazbek’s lyrics are witty...more than keeping pace with Horn’s book.” Full Review

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"A musical adaptation so insipid it makes one long for the good old days of 1642, when the Puritans shut down all the theaters...Heckerling’s film is capital-g Great, if not particularly good. Yet the musical adaptation wants to be something more; it wants to be topical and, even worse, important, climaxing in an environmental protest that feels neither earned nor particularly genuine." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"A streak of dark humor runs through the play, but its message is dead serious and perennially timely. There’s no story to spoil, but to describe the evening’s turns and divagations in too much detail is to steal a little of its flame...'Rags Parkland' traces, in a scant 90 minutes, nothing less than the birth of an artist. Heady stuff for a sci-fi folk concert, but 'Rags' is never ponderous or morose...Most importantly, the music rocks....The cast’s musicianship is uniformly stellar." Full Review

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"The story is a series of dialogues that jump from place to place and character to character with typically Churchillian obliqueness. The effect is at once disorienting and thrilling...It’s in those spaces between people, however, that Chavkin’s staging falters. Churchill’s sense of humor is wicked and subtle, but the company’s readings of her dialogue are page-deep, almost completely missing the pitch-black cynical wit that underpins even the most banal scenes." Full Review

Harry Clarke
West Village
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for a previous production “If the whole venture ends up feeling a bit unsubstantial, that’s largely the result of telling a grifter’s story...There are moments of connection, eroticism, and real human feeling throughout...Manipulation can be fun when there’s the promised reward of a magic trick at the end, but the audience leaves ‘Harry Clarke’ with... not much of anything. Crudup’s embodiment of the role, though, is a small miracle, and it feels churlish to ask for more.” Full Review

Peter Pan
Midtown W
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"Bedlam’s ill-conceived adaptation makes a strong case for putting 'Peter Pan' to rest...Tucker and company throw everything at the wall to see what sticks...Junk piles up around the stage in a literal manifestation of the crust of mixed metaphors, character doubling, and recursive plot fragments piled willy-nilly on the play, effectively negating any hope of emotional engagement. The show wants desperately to say something, but it talks a lot and says very little." Full Review

Tiny Beautiful Things
East Village
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"'Tiny Beautiful Things' is dead on arrival. With its monochromatic script, repetitive staging, and tone-deaf politics, it’s the anti-'Hamilton'...The concept unfortunately padlocks the actors inside a hamster wheel...It is sporadically striking, largely thanks to Strayed’s killer metaphors...If only it weren’t all so unrelentingly tedious...'Things,' comes dangerously close to propaganda for a very limited, very white worldview...There’s a short leap from 'We’re all Sugar' to 'All Lives Matt... Full Review

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"'In the Blood,' for all its creativity, is a primarily cerebral affair. It’s impossible not to care because the story is all too reminiscent of a million others, but with its cartoonish characterizations and blunt metaphors, it forecloses the possibility of empathy and feeling. A Parks play is always memorable and never formulaic, but at an intermissionless 110 minutes, 'In the Blood' starts to feel more like homework than performance." Full Review

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"Both banks on and challenges its brand awareness, refining the narrative into a piquant, overheated slab of physical theater...If it ultimately proves stultifying, it can also be mesmerizing...The play’s concert vibe veers too often into celebration; rape, murder and torture become party games...This version of the story comes on with all the subtlety of a disco wrecking ball. Thank Bog for Davies, then. His performance is a master class in total performance control." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"Ultimately proves the rare miss for Ruhl...Even her misfires are noteworthy...Here the drama has been eliminated altogether. Argument stands in for conflict; the idea, not the play, is the thing...Having foregone individuation, however, 'For Peter Pan' feels more like a Sarah Ruhl parody than a Sarah Ruhl play...The play floats along on the surface, safe and sane and totally harmless...The staging and delivery choices are mechanical and workaday, leaving the fine ensemble...to flounder." Full Review

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"Spirited and nuanced, but lacks the caution, finesse, and heterogeneity needed to avoid joining the ranks of American musicals that have tried to absorb non-Western cultures, only to abuse and debase them...The actors perform with a liveliness befitting a much larger stage, even though each has been directed as though in his own world...No Afghans were harmed in the making of this play (at least not physically), but it doesn’t appear that many were consulted, either." Full Review

Sojourners
East Village
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“Though the result, as shaped by director Ed Sylvanus Iskandar and dramaturg Janice Paran, is often excruciatingly dry, the plays demand a witnessing of their American immigrants’ stories…The plays’ micro-drama needs a lively staging to offset its sedateness, but Iskandar has gone in the opposite direction…The scripts could equally benefit from a trim…The dramatic stagnation echoes the languor of their precarious situation, but makes for torpid drama.” Full Review

Arlington
Brooklyn
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"The play is no less defeatist than Walsh’s previous works, but for the first time there is a glimmer of resistance...'Arlington' is the type of play that invites a number of interpretations, all of which are right, and few of which can be supported with evidence from the stage...There’s no denying the play’s morbid charm. Charlie Murphy’s Isla is instantly endearing...O’Conor is a heartbreaking deer in the headlights, doing his best to remain human in a dehumanized wasteland." Full Review

The Antipodes
Midtown W
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"This simple setup proves a fertile launching pad for Baker’s fevered imagination...'The Antipodes' is her shortest play in a while, but the densest thematically...Now that everyone’s lived experience has been turned into a story...how can anyone know what’s real and what’s performance?...The irony of exploring this tension through a performance is not lost on Baker; she embraces it throughout, gleefully, as the characters’ stories grow stranger and more elaborate." Full Review

Angel & Echoes
Midtown E
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"Both plays are clear, angry, and unflinching about the plight of women and the roots of radicalization, but there is a deep sense of disquiet bubbling underneath them...It revolves around the problem of who gets to tell whose story...It is critical that artists interrogate their reasons...It seems clear that the almost all-white creative team has not done that essential work. The plays encourage an engaged cosmopolitanism, but flog that important message by profiting from the pain of others." Full Review

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"A charming, featherweight tall tale that glides along on the winning rapport McNair creates with the audience...If he doesn’t possess the technical precision of a Jefferson Mays or an Anna Deavere Smith, there is still a warmth and clear regard for each character...McNair’s nameless narrator is dynamic and engaging, but he is also an unknowable hollow at the center of the play. This makes sympathy or understanding difficult, which may be the play’s ultimate message." Full Review

Perversion
West Village
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“So wrongheaded on nearly every level...The company, god bless ’em, commit 100%...Characters warble and argue and pontificate endlessly about—well, one is never quite sure…At once leaden and glib, the dialogue constantly ties itself up in Gordian knots of faux profundity, leaving the actors, bless ’em, with little to do but go really, really, big. The result is a show that strains to be 'Waiting for Godot' but ends up 'Waiting for Guffman.'” Full Review

Sundown, Yellow Moon
Upper W Side
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"Sadness and regret can be minefields of sentiment and navel-gazing on stage, but 'Sundown, Yellow Moon' navigates them with an invigorating lightness of touch; it is remarkable that a story so defined by disappearances, holes, and unknowns can feel so energizing. Some credit is due to the songs by The Bengsons...The building blocks of the story, on the other hand, are nothing new...Yet what sets 'Sundown, Yellow Moon' apart is a contemporary sensibility." Full Review

Omega Kids
Soho/Tribeca
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"Gonzalez and Sarratt strike a nuanced balance with their performances, neither telegraphing their feelings nor hiding behind a forced inscrutability...The direct line the play draws between fandom and queer identity is cliché at this point, but Mease energizes it with three-dimensional characters who are allowed to be more than just their sexuality. If this intimate two-hander sometimes buckles under all that heavy lifting, a late twist shows that even small things can achieve greatness." Full Review

Hurricane Diane
East Village
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"It’s the type of idea-driven play that in lesser hands might become more academic journal article than piece of theater, but writer Madeleine George and director Leigh Silverman have crafted the evening with a deceptively light touch...Barron and Skraastad are the standouts in a strong cast, turning the low-hanging fruit of New Jersey housewife clichés into something darker and more affecting...'Hurricane Diane' is as funny as it is terrifying." Full Review

Good Grief
Gramercy
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“Anyanwu’s play mostly avoids the clichés that tend to reduce stories of death to stages-of-grieving checklists...This is familiar ground for second-generation immigrant stories, but the tropes are made fresh by Timpo’s magical-realist direction, which favors natural, relaxed speech...’Good Grief’ ends on a note of cosmic rejuvenation which the play never quite earns...N deserves to be more than her sadness. Grief can be good or bad, but it isn’t necessarily interesting." Full Review

Emma & Max
Soho/Tribeca
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“Solondz’s playwriting debut lacks the gut punch of his film work. For Solondz, race and class can only be understood in concert with each other...The children are the battlefield on which the main characters act out their grievances. This thematic ground has been done to death, by Solondz and any number of artists. Yet while it’s admittedly low-hanging fruit, the play dissects its tropes with wicked glee." Full Review

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"Kennedy’s first new play in a decade, may be her most narratively straightforward work yet, but even at a svelte 45 minutes it is no easily digestible scrap...Evan Yionoulis directs with a fluidity born from experience with Kennedy’s work...Both actors speak in a languorous molasses drawl, which makes it all the more astonishing that the play is able to say so much in so little time. If anything, 'He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box' may be trying to say too much." Full Review

The Mad Ones
Midtown E
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“You can recognize a Kerrigan/Lowdermilk song by its refusal to settle for one note per syllable; the pair never met a melisma they didn’t like...But a little melisma goes a long way, as does a lot of fortissimo, and the songs, like the story, become repetitive and fatiguing in their sameness...’The Mad Ones’works as pop music, but not as theater. The plot rambles, as befits a memory play, but without any sense of forward motion, the story simply spins its wheels.” Full Review

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"It tears through the niceties of Shakespeare’s plot only to screech to nearly a full stop in the scenes of highest tension, ensuring that none of the most meaningful fragments of 'needful value' passes unquestioned...The performances are entirely unpredictable from moment to moment...It is fun as hell, once one adjusts to the production’s rhythms...If this modern Shakespeare doesn’t quite coalesce, it still makes for a damn interesting bricolage." Full Review

Mary Jane
East Village
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"The exchanges that make up the bulk of 'Mary Jane' are well-acted and nuanced; what drama there is springs from the often-implied means the characters use to solicit support and strength...Kauffman directs the play as a chamber drama television show, meeting Herzog’s naturalistic speech rhythms with a staging that values stillness over action...What emerges is not so much a sketch of lone woman...but a portrait of a community of women, both onstage and off, vibrating uniquely, as one." Full Review

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"Doyle has slashed the text to its barest of bones and reduced scenic demands...The approach…has made Shakespeare’s breeziest, most joyful romantic comedy even breezier…The troupe is a true company, laughing at each other’s jokes and mistakes, encouraging and challenging one another…The staging and actors’ diction are sharp and unadorned, so that even with gaps the storytelling is clear…It’s not challenging or innovative, but it’s warm, inviting, and utterly lovely.” Full Review

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"The story seems straight out of Bertolt Brecht...Though Parks the composer can’t hold a candle to Weill, Parks the playwright is Brecht’s equal as a dramatist...The performers most experienced in musical theater—Dixon, Kalukango, Kudisch, Stanley—have the best luck with Parks’s poetical patois...Bonney's naturalistic staging is at odds with Parks’ impressionistic text, creating often enervating stage pictures that take at its word a play much more interested in what lies underneath." Full Review

Charolais
Midtown E
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“Directed with a sure hand by Barbre Ní Chaoimh that favors simplicity over showboating, Stapleton is a master of the bemused eye roll, winning sympathy with a frankness that recalls Richard III’s ability to turn spectators into accomplices. The play kicks into comic high gear, however, when Stapleton lets her own blond hair down and becomes Charolais…The funny, ultimately moving play has much more on its mind than drawing easy parallels between the two.” Full Review

Her Portmanteau
East Village
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“Though the result is often excruciatingly dry, the plays demand a witnessing of their American immigrants’ stories…The plays’ micro-drama needs a lively staging to offset its sedateness, but Iskandar has gone in the opposite direction...'Her Portmanteau' suffers less from this inertia...The scripts could equally benefit from a trim...It is thrilling to watch a dynamic American voice bring the new wine of marginalized voices to the stage.” Full Review

Seven Spots on the Sun
West Village
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"A moving anti-war polemic...Like so many plays this year, 'Seven Spots' has become eerily timely in its survey of a society divided...War is hell, if you didn’t know it, but Zimmerman has a chronicler’s gift for seeing broadly. He sustains a mostly convincing narrative, with echoes of Gabriel García Márquez, without becoming overwhelmed by its inventory of horrors. Director Weyni Mengesha, making her New York debut, deserves credit for this tightrope walk as well." Full Review

Fossils
Midtown E
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“One of the great virtues of devised work is company chemistry, and Vinten, Farrell, and Murphy have it in spades...They clearly relish the work and take pleasure in one another’s presence…The music is just about perfect…If only there were a more interesting story to hang it all on. Crouch keeps things moving at a nice clip, and the play demonstrates a thorough understanding of academic life (despite its hackneyed character types), but the play putters to an unsatisfying non-ending.” Full Review

Samara
Midtown W
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“The dancing lights and disembodied sound start to feel like one abstraction and about three endings too many, but the effect is pleasurable, if not entirely convincing. Maxwell has entrusted Benson with his strange baby, opening the way for an expressive clarity not usually associated with his writing. The cost of that clarity is an acting palette that borders on the slapdash; it is often nigh on impossible to divine if acting choices are anti-naturalistic or just not very good.” Full Review

CasablancaBox
Soho/Tribeca
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"The play constructs a lively cross-section of early-1940s filmmaking to explore what that movie meant to its creators and an American public less than a year into World War II, as well as the darker undercurrents of American life it helped to crystallize and obscure. The play nearly bursts from trying to say and do so much, but is held together by its nimble staging conceit...'CasablancaBox' is more interested in peering into people’s lives than diving deep. " Full Review

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“With a novel’s-worth of ground to cover in two hours, the production favors incident over emotion, and potentially impactful moments are shorn of any dramatic heft…The routine pop-rock score and facile lyrics too often impede the narrative, instead of deepening it…The show may not sing, but McCarrell does, with brio. His reedy, falsetto and feverish buoyancy make the show watchable…There’s not much lightning in this ‘Thief,’ but the cast brings the thunder.” Full Review

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"One of the great joys of Ruhlian drama is luxuriating in its complex nest of ideas...Ruhl’s dense tissue of quotations makes familiar concerns feel new...Metwally and Weigert, the standouts among a strong cast, negotiate this dangerous territory best, providing a beating heart for their characters that doesn't exist on the page...For all the play’s variegated pleasures, however, it’s hard not to wish that such talented artists would begin to look beyond the walls of the privileged few." Full Review

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"Despite good intentions and passages of real lyrical humanism, the play ends up making the same mistakes as the Left...Jenn Thompson’s direction is energetic and precise, and the acting is strong almost across the board, but in the end the play reinforces the very cultural narratives it purports to dismantle...'The Gravedigger’s Lullaby' deserves praise for trying to shine a light from Theatre Row into the homes of the dispossessed, but it’s ultimately too patronizing and solipsistic." Full Review