Jennifer Vanasco

Jennifer Vanasco is a critic with WNYC. This account has been auto-generated, and does not indicate that this person is an active member of Show-Score.com. That said, if you "follow" this member, you will automatically be updated whenever s/he writes a new review.

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Reviews (102)
Tootsie (NYC)
Midtown W
WNYC

"'Tootsie' is that rare musical that's actually funny. REALLY funny...What's not to love? Well, for starters, the plot...Horn tries to make all this gender nonsense okay. At the end, Michael babbles some pablum about how he learned that women have it tough, but we actually never see him experiencing that toughness. We only see his life getting easier...The ballads are droopy, the choreography is particularly uninspired. For the most part, however, it's a solid musical and it's funny." Full Review

WNYC

"Anaïs Mitchell, a singer/songwriter, originally wrote this show as a concept album, and it shows in her richly textured, roots-inspired songs. She connected with director Rachel Chavkin and the result is a stylish, resonant, high-energy musical, much fuller than the Off Broadway version...Chavkin's staging is exquisite...But the most provocative part of this show has been there since the beginning...There are obvious parallels to today's politics." Full Review

WNYC

"It transforms the history of the firm into an elegy on the tragedy of American capitalism...The language, and the compelling way the story is told, makes the piece sound like a radio play...But in director Sam Mendes's hands, it's a theatrical triumph...It is desperately funny, and moving, and entertaining, speeding through so quickly that it's almost a shock to discover it's over. This is a magnificent work...It somehow intimately understands both the triumph and the tragedy of America." Full Review

Daddy
Midtown W
WNYC

"Like 'Slave Play,' 'Daddy' uses surprising stage imagery to explore intellectual arguments about race and class, but here they're not as pointed and the play isn't structured as tightly. (It's a meandering three hours.) And the subject is just not as explosive...These fascinating pieces, with their jagged edges and radiant light, never quite end up as a full picture. It's like a mosaic that has yet to be fitted together...'Daddy' is imaginative and interesting — it's just that Harris has bet... Full Review

WNYC

“Shepard's play is searing and savage — and very funny — and this production starts off with a moody tension...Both actors give convincing performances...But the tense and lyrical first act devolves into a more clownish second one. As things fall apart, Hawke and Dano start tearing up the scenery; the timing stutters, and what should be a menacing hothouse feels more like an out-of-control children's playroom...By the time this production ends, it feels more like a poke than a punch.” Full Review

Slave Play
East Village
WNYC

"Harris's comedy is so ferociously original, so daring, and so funny that your foreknowledge won't ruin it...Harris’s premise is fascinating and it moves the discussion beyond surface talk of who is racist and who is not...The conversations around these questions are raw and unflinching. Yet 'Slave Play' is funnier than you might expect...And the characters feel real, not people devised to illustrate a point. This is masterful storytelling, searing and illuminating, and not to be missed." Full Review

Network (NYC)
Midtown W
WNYC

"Ivo van Hove's production doesn't have much to say, though it's exciting to look at...Cranston, as Beale, is the ideal actor for this dual role, simultaneously playing to the live audience and to the camera. His descent is rapid, explosive, and transfixing — it's tough to look away...But his Howard Beale is still a cipher...Beale isn't someone we ever come to care about, and, unfortunately, that extends to all of the characters in the play." Full Review

King Kong (NYC)
Midtown W
WNYC

“The puppet is amazing...It conveys so much emotion with its face and body...In fact, much more nuance than its human companions. That's because something key is missing in the rest of this musical. Heart. Also, purpose. And passion...The book is lifeless, the lyrics are lackluster and the music is forgettable. There is no dramatic tension...There are only theme park thrills...Theater needs something more in order to be successful." Full Review

The Ferryman (NYC)
Midtown W
WNYC

"Butterworth's new family drama is an explosive, immersive experience that manages to be both mythic in scope and yet completely grounded in the everyday. It's a finely crafted piece of writing and an extraordinarily well-realized production...A warm, funny and poignant set of overlapping and interwoven tales that combine into a bountiful tapestry...Mendes creates an almost cinematic realism here, despite a few supernatural elements...This production is extraordinary — don't miss it." Full Review

WNYC

"’The Lifespan of a Fact’ pretends to be about something really important...but when you look closely, you realize that it's a well-polished argument about nothing much...This major dramatic flaw is impossible to overlook, which is too bad because the cast is simply wonderful...But even a fictional drama like this one needs some basis in reality...An audience can't trust a play that's ostensibly about debating the truth of facts if it gets all its facts wrong.” Full Review

The True
Midtown W
WNYC

"It's a rich, imagined look at the local Albany Democratic machine told through the story of a woman who loves it...In actor Falco's hands, Polly Noonan becomes one of the great characters of the American stage...This play is still deeply relevant in an era when Albany corruption continues to be uncovered. It is also an extraordinary portrait of a woman who, in a different time, may have — like her granddaughter — become a political leader herself.” Full Review

WNYC

“Our #MeToo era seems the exact wrong moment to launch a show...based on a 30-year-old rom-com...Our understanding of a woman's place in society has changed. We no longer think women need saving...Miraculously, the new ‘Pretty Woman’ understands that, which is why it works...Vivian is whip-smart, strong, and soulful...She's a character we can cheer for without reservation...A show that will delight almost everyone...It's a musical about a woman finding herself." Full Review

The Damned
Upper E Side
WNYC

"Nowhere has there been as clear-eyed and horrific a vision of what can happen when people do nothing about growing facism than in 'The Damned'...It is a brilliant and unsettling production that redefines our current political moment...Despite the occasional melodramatic element, it all feels like truth. And most true of all is when the camera turns on the audience...Everyone is a witness when a government falls. And if those witnesses do nothing, they are collaborators." Full Review

Teenage Dick
East Village
WNYC

“Clever new satire by Mike Lew...What starts off as a sitcom-bright show becomes something darker at the end...Lew struggles to make the leap between tones, which leaves the play feeling emotionally muddled...This is a serious structural issue with the play, as is the long, dragged-out ending that doesn't quite feel earned. Yet the concept as a whole is fresh and lively and this kind of creativity is always worth seeing." Full Review

WNYC

“The gang's back together, and Harry, Hermione, and Ron are just as delightful as they ever were...The result is thrilling, thanks in part to enchanting stagecraft...There are events on stage that seem impossible, and effects that are simply astonishing...But the reason this show is magical is not just due to theater wizardry. It's also because the themes at its heart are moving ones." Full Review

WNYC

"Much of the quirky charm of the film is missing, which can make the musical feel lumbering at times. There are, however, some delightful additions...Most of the 12 new songs written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are introspective and dark, and meant to deepen our understanding of the characters...A work that captures a lot of what was delightful about the film, while giving us a bit more to think about." Full Review

Kings
East Village
WNYC

"Davis is fantastic...And Grenier is shady-sleek...But as directed by Kail, 'Kings' itself is not captivating...All glossy dialogue and little heart. It's not helped by a stuttering momentum made worse by frequent, long blackouts...That's too bad, because the inner world of Washington D.C. lobbyists is a compelling idea. Even better: Three of the four characters are women...Despite the title, in 'Kings', it's women who hold the real power." Full Review

WNYC

"Yazbek's delicate musical focuses on small moments of kindness and understanding between strangers...Cromer uses actors standing alone on a wide stage to emphasize these characters' deep loneliness...It's Yazbek's lovely score that makes this Off-Broadway transfer captivating and carries it through the occasional aimless scene...The other winning thing about this show is that it doesn't go where you expect it to. There's no easy resolution." Full Review

M. Butterfly
Midtown W
WNYC

“Where Puccini's ‘Madama Butterfly’ opera is all emotion and tragic lovers, this production is the opposite; at times, it is almost a clinical depiction of how a seemingly-rational man could get things so wrong. This, despite exquisitely vulnerable performances from Owen and Ha. They take two unlikable characters and break them open, so that we can see their humanity. If only this production were as focused on feelings, instead of on facts.” Full Review

In & Of Itself
Gramercy
WNYC

“A haunting, one-man performance piece that explores the disconnect between how we see ourselves and how others see us…In fact, there's so much art in the show that at times the magic can feel distracting. That's because the heart of this piece is not astonishment, but a series of deeply felt, confessional narratives…And yet when the magic and storytelling perfectly align in the last half hour, it is as if he has pulled an elephant out of a hat." Full Review

WNYC

"DeBessonet pushes the whimsical slapstick of the story, drawing on a flight of gifted comic actors...All of this sweet joy is both the production's greatest asset and largest drawback. On the plus side: this is fun fluff, with nothing to distract from the silliness. On the minus side: this is fun fluff, with none of the melancholy undertones about intimate betrayals that give some productions of 'Midsummer' surprising heft. No matter. This sort of pure pleasure is all too rare." Full Review

1984 (Broadway)
Midtown W
WNYC

"The production is intense and disturbing...The play is ominous, unsettling — and then comes the antiseptic room 101, a chamber of horrors where victims' worst fears come to pass. What happens there is chilling and graphic. It is worse than a horror movie, because it seems both so real and so possible." Full Review

WNYC

"The most powerful parts of the experience are the intimate monologues, when we sit with performers who describe one moment: maybe it's the writing of a scene, maybe it's the moment a needy actor thinks back on her roles. 'Ghostlight' is enthralling not only because it brings us inside the warren of rooms normally off-limits to the audience—but because it also brings us inside the minds and hearts of the actors and playwrights and ushers who inhabit them." Full Review

Her Portmanteau
East Village
WNYC

"It's somehow flimsy on details, and it resolves too quickly and neatly. There's big emotion here, but it doesn't feel earned. One of Udofia's great strengths is her finely drawn characters; we understand right away who these three women are...But we never get a strong enough sense of what is driving them and their inner lives remain a mystery...A standard American play about the relationship between a mother and her daughters, though there's not enough at stake to completely draw us in." Full Review

WNYC

"An old-fashioned musical done in an old-fashioned way—with vivid costumes, a cast of (so it seems) thousands, exceptional choreography and a bona fide star at its center…Midler is sassy and brassy, and her comic timing is so good...But—in the preview I attended—there wasn't enough of her being herself. When she slips into being just Dolly Levi, her character can feel mechanical and vague...'Hello, Dolly!' covers well-trod territory, but with panache, and a trolley full of fun." Full Review

WNYC

"Those in the audience who paid attention to the news that year will already know what's about to happen on stage the moment they step in the theater...Despite all the talent on stage and behind the scenes — the estimable Joe Mantello directs — there's very little insight or even entertainment here. Even though Lithgow and Metcalf develop 'Bill' and 'Hillary' as fresh characters instead of tired impressions, we're not left with a deeper understanding of either of them." Full Review

Burn This
Midtown W
WNYC

"Pale explodes onto the stage, embodied by the actor Adam Driver, and grabs your attention. His first monologue is a masterpiece of characterization, telling us all we need to know..Wilson's low-stakes romance is a bit worn around the edges, despite Michael Mayer's sprightly direction...Yet Driver's Pale is so vibrantly real, vulnerable and caring, despite all his angry posturing, that we're immediately drawn in. One of the best performances on Broadway this season." Full Review

WNYC

"This newly-recalibrated version directed by Scott Ellis at Roundabout Theatre changes all that. Now it's a clash of equals — and the result is delicious...A cast of multiracial, old-school hoofers, who tear into Warren Carlyle's witty choreography...This new 'Kiss Me, Kate' is a joy. It's simply one of the purest pleasures now on Broadway." Full Review

WNYC

"It's both easier to follow and more clear where the holes in the story are. But the cast, though they occasionally have unsteady voices, brings a warmth and poignancy that feels fresh...Maybe this is as good as it gets — six entangled characters who hurt themselves as they try to thrive." Full Review

WNYC

“McCraney has written a spectacular — and spectacularly complex — character in Pharus...Brought to life by an extraordinary...Pope, Pharus feels like a real teenager who is struggling to reconcile all the different aspects of his identity...He'll make you cry, and then cheer. Yet the rest of the show doesn't live up to Pharus' promise. There are too many tropes...The plot doesn't really make sense. And the songs seem to be thrown in willy-nilly...But as a character study, 'Choir Boy' is simpl... Full Review

WNYC

“It's impossible to know whether the production's significant flaws are due to the (quite wonderful) creative team being hamstrung by the estate...But what we do know is what's onstage, and what's onstage is often tedious and preachy. Worse...it traffics in stereotypes...This is a very unsophisticated portrayal of race in America. When it comes to theater, there's a lot out there that does this better.” Full Review

WNYC

“Nothing much happens in this 70 minutes of seemingly aimless ruminating. And yet there's so much beauty and humanity in it...Hall brings out the dark poetry of this play. He is ingratiating without ever being fully knowable...He's funny, charming, and completely believable...An astoundingly intimate show...A direct look into someone's unfiltered brain — sometimes wandering, ugly, and shallow, while at other times focused, lovely, and profound.” Full Review

WNYC

"'American Son' is not about the narrative, which has a few too many theatrical 'gotcha' moments for my taste. Instead, it is interested in airing an argument about the pervasiveness of racism...I thought a lot about Washington's performance....There's little humor and almost no nuance, just 90 minutes of close-to-tearful raging. It can feel one-noted...And yet, her character is not irrational...'American Son' may have a shaky narrative, but it is a searing political argument." Full Review

Fireflies
Chelsea
WNYC

"This is a compelling premise for a play, but it's buried under a mountain of melodrama...'Fireflies,' the second in a three-part look at black, gay relationships in history, also clumsily wrestles with domestic abuse, homophobia, misogyny, abortion, alcoholism and infidelity...Very quickly, it devolves into a soap opera. Yet both Wise and Davis give grounded, heartbreaking performances. I can't wait to see them together, but in another production." Full Review

WNYC

“Theater nerds will be gratified by the extended backstage wrangling over how Shakespeare's lines should be delivered. And everyone will likely find pleasure in Borritt's detailed sets, including Edison bulb footlights, and Leslie-James' eloquent costumes. But most are likely to be frustrated with the drama's muddy story and emphasis on low-hanging fruit. And yet, the play is saved — by the stunning actor Janet McTeer.” Full Review

WNYC

"Nelson has a gift for portraying sharply observed families, capturing the affection and tension that arise in everyday interactions...The exquisite translation...strips the language to its essence. It's clear and illuminating. When a gunshot goes off, it's not the bang that surprises, but the sudden explosion of feeling. This is theater at its best: No special effects, no gizmos, just heartbreaking acting and a script that feels so contemporary, it could have been written last week." Full Review

Fire in Dreamland
East Village
WNYC

"Overstuffed narrative...Groff packs the script full of ideas: she tries to draw unconvincing parallels between the devastation after Sandy and the destruction of the fire; she wants to talk about grief and betrayal; and she wants to re-evaluate the American dream...Her writing is funny and lovely, but both characters feel barely sketched in and the stakes for Kate simply aren't high enough...As authentic as a carnival side show." Full Review

Girls & Boys
West Village
WNYC

"In Kelly's eyes, women build things and men tear them (violently) down. This is a simplistic notion, of course, and it's disappointing. In any other actor's hands, it might be reason enough to stay away. But the magnificent Carey Mulligan uses all her gifts to charm us, holding the stage herself for over 100 intermissionless minutes, as she plays a character known only as Woman. She's a natural raconteur...A clunky political speech that goes on too long." Full Review

WNYC

"Director Santiago-Hudson gives us an intelligent, cool reading of a play that can be intense and hotheaded...Stoll's Iago is less a puppetmaster than a gladhanding, gaslighting politician...Chukwudi Iwuji's fresh, open performance makes Othello seem like a naif, instead of a war-tested soldier. We are not surprised he can be conned. Instead, Iago's counterweight is his wife Emilia...This production elevates her, so that she becomes one of Shakespeare's memorable women." Full Review

Yerma
Upper E Side
WNYC

"'Her' is played by Billie Piper and it is the most compelling performance of the season. The role is Shakespearean in its complexity, moral ambiguity and rage, and Piper brings to it a snarling honesty that starts out with raunchy wisecracking and ends with a primal scream...Piper's ferocity, however, never overshadows the rest of the cast, despite their more restrained performances. It is a testament to their skill and that of Stone, who also directed the play...This production is a triumph." Full Review

The Low Road
East Village
WNYC

"Norris's satire of human frailty...It's raucous, raunchy, inventive and constantly surprising...'The Low Road' sees generosity as naive and selfishness as humanity's natural condition. Its biggest flaw is that it occasionally lapses into unnecessary pedantry about how the American financial system enslaves and abuses the underclasses. For the most part, however, this is audacious storytelling, remarkable both for its freshness and the brisk way it takes all of us to task." Full Review

Hangmen
Chelsea
WNYC

"What seems like an eccentric character piece becomes, in playwright Martin McDonough's deft hands, a darkly comic thriller that is also a meditation on the justice of revenge...'Hangmen' hinges on a handsome stranger...Flynn plays him with an understated malice that sets off alarm bells...One of the more sinister portrayals of a predator that I've ever seen...The uncertainty over what he's done and his motivations drives the twisty plot." Full Review

Illyria
East Village
WNYC

"The most lovely thing about writer and director Richard Nelson's evocative new play, 'Illyria,' is that it's told in his gentle, fly-on-the-wall style...We get to know this group of theater friends not through highly-dramatic happenings, but through their intimate conversations...It's that undertone of canniness that keeps the play from being too sentimental...Unfortunately, they are more soft-spoken than the 'Gabriels' cast — I often had trouble catching whole phrases." Full Review

WNYC

"It's gentle and generous, without much conflict...There's almost no dramatic arc, and there's almost no emotional arc either...Despite these significant drawbacks, 'For Peter Pan' is interesting in an experimental-theater kind of way. It's rare to see an accomplished playwright deviate so drastically from dramatic structure. It's imaginative...There is tender and affecting dialogue...But ironically, it is the most fantastical elements that keep this 'Peter Pan' firmly on the ground." Full Review

A Parallelogram
Midtown W
WNYC

"'A Parallelogram' is a thought experiment...Director Michael Greif...keeps this conceit from ever feeling corny by milking its humor...This is a more playful work, with many plot holes. Norris is less concerned with his characters' actual lives than with exploring a philosophical idea about what moral actions people should take when faced with the inevitability of death. It's more a parable than a social study." Full Review

Pipeline
Upper W Side
WNYC

"This is an important topic, especially in our city...Morisseau's play doesn't tackle this subject head-on; instead, it's more oblique and focuses on an African-American mother's anxiety over the future of her son...This should be riveting...But instead, the show meanders...Not enough dots are connected here...By the end, it feels like a play that could use more development time to better zero in on character motivations and plot points." Full Review

Seeing You
Chelsea
WNYC

"'Seeing You' tries to do many things in 90 minutes...The show is at its best when it uses dance or provocative movement to get at the deep grief of war...It also does something very interesting: unsettles us. The space is dark; the music is loud; there is smoke and strobe lights; people are often moving you around from one place to another and you don't know where you're going...Yet in terms of storytelling, the show fails. There isn't a clear narrative." Full Review

WNYC

“Oskar Eustis has slimmed down and sharpened Shakespeare's ‘Julius Caesar’ to make a stinging political point: Democracy is fragile and Donald Trump is not the worst thing that can happen to America...This ‘Caesar’ is mind-crushingly good, in no small part because it speaks precisely to our times…It is, perhaps, too on-the-nose; but it is not — as conservative and alt-right media outlets have suggested — a show that glorifies the assassination of the President." Full Review

WNYC

“Deeply satisfying (and very funny)…The four characters battle over what makes a marriage and whether marriage can ever be part of a happy life. But in Hnath and director Sam Gold's telling, none of them are straw men (or women). Each has a perfectly reasonable explanation for why they feel like they do. We are left with the bleak idea that some chasms are too deep to ever be bridged, no matter how well-meaning the intentions." Full Review

WNYC

"Playwright John Guare writes with deep humanity, and that beauty is on full display in this revival...The cast gives top-drawer performances, especially Janney and Hawkins...The fact that the social satire no longer has the same bite just shows the beautiful bones of Guare's work. Because even 27 years later, it is a show that compassionately explores even the dark side of human nature." Full Review