Gwen Orel

About:  Gwen Orel is features editor for the new Montclair Local, and was formerly arts editor of The Montclair Times. In 2016, she won 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize for reviews in the Society of Professional Journalists New Jersey, as well as winning first prizes for features sections and columns from the New Jer... Read more Read less
Reviews (17)
New York Irish Arts

“One of the best things you’ll see in 2019...O’Casey’s play starts out funny. You enjoy the poetry of the language and the precision of the performances...who are playing familiar Irish characters...Then the play takes a hard turn and you’re in the world of tragedy...The 10-person cast are perfect...O’Reilly hits each note so that the language is ever rhythmical and sharp...’The Shadow of a Gunman’ has heart, pathos, humor, and wit. It also has grief, one that will be sure to stay with you aw... Full Review

The Home Place
Chelsea
New York Irish Arts

“The beautiful production is haunting; a dream that’s about to be a nightmare. Literally. I lost sleep...Moore helms a talented cast with nuance and grace...It would be a mistake to assume that the action is on the surface. There’s a lot churning underneath, and not just feelings...The play is a masterpiece, and Moore does it proud." Full Review

A Hunger Artist
East Village
New York Irish Arts

for a previous production "'A Hunger Artist' makes you want to stand up and cheer...Possibly the best solo performance of the year. It’s smart. It’s funny. And it’s highly theatrical...This is a work that is everything new theater should be...Levin has tremendous plasticity...Gelb’s direction hits every note–the gaiety, the dread, the pity. Luxenberg’s script is smart and not just funny but witty...A one-man show of deep beauty, remarkable invention, compassionate understanding, and sure theatricality." Full Review

New York Irish Arts

"The takeaway from the show is usually the tour de force of the eponymous role. But while Abili brings gravitas and intensity to his role, his performance is not the main event. The play itself is, and that’s how it should be...Director Ciarán O’Reilly, with the help of choreographer Barry McNabb, has put together a dark, precise and unforgettable production...Jones never makes it out of the forest—and neither does the audience. The production is precise, terrifying and truly haunting." Full Review

If I Forget
Midtown W
New York Irish Arts

"The adult sibling relationships in Levenson’s ambitious new drama 'If I Forget' are hilariously, and sadly, convincing...The plot of the play is less compelling, despite terrific performances by the cast...Levenson seems to want to raise the same issues about the Holocaust and Israel that Michael does– but it doesn’t quite work...It’s a credit to director Sullivan that the plot faults aren’t more noticeable. He’s pulled very natural, all-too-recognizable performances from the entire cast." Full Review

New York Irish Arts

“This is great theater. It has everything–terrific performances, surprise, spectacle, insight. If you can nab a ticket, even if you’ve seen 'The Tempest' before, you need to go. You’ve never seen it done like this…The cuts and some rearranging are judicious and it’s worth it for the surprising tableaux...Walter’s Prospero commands with dignity...It’s brilliant conception and direction by Lloyd, and unforgettable theater." Full Review

The Weir
Gramercy
New York Irish Arts

for a previous production "Irish Rep’s production of 'The Weir' is devastating and heartening. The storytelling is its own form of healing, in the play and outside of it. They are more effective than electric lights in the way they banish the darkness. This is what 'happens.' And it’s more than enough." Full Review

Backstage

for a previous production "The adaptation captures all of the book's flaws and none of its charm…It does not translate to the stage. McLean merely speaks aloud some of the letters, with Screwtape more of a narrator than a character involved in the action, and that's a fatal flaw for drama…Despite his elegant delivery, McLean never connects with the audience...'The Screwtape Letters' could make a great play, but this one feels more like a sermon." Full Review

Benny & Joon
Millburn
Montclair Local

"Elless’ strong, pure, effortless voice and sprightly charm as Joon in Paper Mill’s 'Benny & Joon' is one of the best things about this sweet, if predictable, musical...How much you enjoy it will depend on your appreciation of whimsy...Director Jack Cummings III nicely juxtaposes pathos and comedy. 'Benny & Joon' is the very the definition of a feel-good musical: it wants you to feel good about family, about love, about possibility. That deserves (predictably) applause." Full Review

Cyprus Avenue
East Village
New York Irish Arts

"Some parts of...'Cyprus Avenue' are chilling. Some parts of it are funny. A few are haunting. The play showcases a shimmering voice, a remarkable performance from Stephen Rea...So much of the play is wonderful. Some moments are full of theatricality and poignancy...There’s also a lot of humor...But. The set-up itself is tired, and doesn’t go anywhere...The play is very dark. But what it isn’t, ultimately, is surprising...Ultimately, it’s worth it anyway." Full Review

New York Irish Arts

“One of the best shows of the year…If ‘Woody Sez’ were just four talented musicians playing Woody Guthrie songs, with a little intro, it would be great. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a theatrical collage of music and time…It’s quite a feat: the cast are amazing musicians, and wonderful actors who give heart-rending performances…Yes, it’s a bio play, but not only of Guthrie, but of America…It’s never been more needed than now.” Full Review

Arlington
Brooklyn
New York Irish Arts

“I didn’t enjoy ‘Arlington.’ I don’t think you’re supposed to…I was ready to write it off. But the play keeps coming back to me…Walsh’s dystopian fantasy feels like a waking nightmare. It’s not plausible, but it’s not ridiculous, either...It gives me the shivers…Charlie Murphy’s Isla is funny, practical and engaging…We’re left wondering what the Hell is going on for far too long...Weird isn’t always poetic...Plot matters...'Arlington' is 80 minutes of situation." Full Review

The Penitent
Chelsea
New York Irish Arts

"This play is stupid, and sorry but no, 'New York Times,' it isn’t a 'boxing match,' it’s well-ordered responses to obvious points nobody would ever say. Director Neil Pepe paces every scene the same. Plot. More plot. Twist? Plot. Yawn...Jordan Lage is however terrific as the lawyer Richard and nearly makes Mamet’s nonsensical legal advice sound good. Nearly...'The Penitent' is 90 minutes, with an intermission. That was too long." Full Review

The Present
Midtown W
New York Irish Arts

"Blanchett is completely luminous in her Broadway debut...While Blanchett finds fresh and surprising moments throughout, it takes a good act and a half before you’re really clear who is who and what is going on...There are wonderful moments in 'The Present,' but there are frustrating stretches of time as well, in which it’s not clear what’s at stake or why...There’s a lot to unpack in 'The Present,' but it’s more tissue paper than substance." Full Review

The Elements of Oz
Financial
NorthJersey.com

for a previous production "The show looks gorgeous...It's fascinating, but ‘Elements’ omits the movie's powerful message that home is where family is, sepia-toned or not. The Builders Association may disagree, but ignoring the sentiment doesn't really work. The phone app didn't work perfectly, either…But while all the ideas don't quite pan out yet, what wonderful ideas they are. 'Elements of Oz' may have a few more turns on its YouTube bricked road to bring us home, but the journey's well worth it." Full Review

Sleep No More
Chelsea
New York Irish Arts

"The experience of this production is just like a nightmare: detailed, hard to convey in words, elusive, weirdly logical somehow. Even when you don’t enjoy it, you relish the experience...It all reminded me of the Tower of Terror at Disneyworld. I mean that as a compliment...When it works, it’s exhilarating. But, like a roller coaster, it has some duller patches, and it’s not for the physically weak...I’d get on line for this ride again. And there’s more to explore in this nightmare." Full Review