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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 (41)
Preview manfromnebraska
85
WNYC

"Director David Cromer has a way of elevating the ordinary. And actor Reed Birney brings complexity to the common man...There is a startling freshness here. None of the characters are stereotypes...There is no sentimentality, no overwrought confessions or dramatic angst. Just the bite of true emotion and the message that no matter how lost someone is, there is always someone waiting to find them." Full Review

Preview sunsetboulevard 2
60
WNYC

“‘Sunset Boulevard’ always brought out the crowds, but its high production costs meant it cost a lot of money. The current revival tries to solve that problem with a bare-bones set, a bare stage girded with ramps and stairs. Unfortunately, that only emphasizes the repetitive music and the leaden book and lyrics. The bright spot? Glenn Close…She captures both the wily manipulations of the aging film star and her anxious fragility." Full Review

Preview img 0010
85
Yen
WNYC

"A remarkable production that does the extraordinary: It creates empathy for people that we otherwise would likely have no empathy for...It's witty and energetic and the action moves swiftly. But Cullman's true genius shows in the desolate vulnerability he evokes from all four actors...And then there's Hedges...His character says very little, and yet when Hench struggles to speak, the emotions that range across his face tell the entire story of his short, wrecked life." Full Review

Preview beautyqueen2
75
WNYC

"This fierce black comedy is part of a trilogy of plays...All three explore poverty and desperation in Ireland and how it can lead people to turn on each other. But O'Sullivan and Mullen keep the sometimes-grisly events in 'Beauty Queen' from becoming too grim to bear. They both have an undercurrent of vulnerability which keeps them from being pure monsters and instead, explains something about the human condition: we are the way we are because someone taught us to be that way." Full Review

Preview in transit
75
WNYC

"The point is a rah-rah one — we're all instruments in the amazing, living musical that is New York! That's a sweet thought, and this is a sweet, earnest musical…These aren't fresh topics and the show barely dips into them. But ‘In Transit’ is charming, fun, and well-staged, with a few clever inside jokes. I suspect that newish, 20-something arrivals will find their lives reflected back in a hopeful mirror." Full Review

Preview last black man white
85
WNYC

"'Last Black Man' isn't a polemical riff on the headlines...As directed by Blain-Cruz, it has a timeless quality, more like a dance piece or a symphony than a traditional narrative story...But now, the last black man's series of highly-stylized deaths...all also read as a blistering condemnation of society's physical brutality to African-American bodies and a paean to the Black Lives Matter movement. Few works have ever seemed more relevant in our political moment—or as worth seeing." Full Review

Preview sweat white
90
WNYC

for a previous production "Nottage has written the great American play we need right now...Nottage leaves a loose plot thread or two, but she captures something important: when factories start closing, people in this close-knit, economically-depressed place turn on each other, often in race-baiting ways, instead of turning on the political and economic system that failed them...'Sweat' is even-handed, nuanced and empathetic." Full Review

Preview frontpage
30
WNYC

"It feels a bit sleazy to watch this play now, a bit tone-deaf. Then Nathan Lane enters in Act II, and he's almost funny enough to smooth over the show's unfortunate dialogue. Sadly, the rest of the cast, except for Goodman, lacks his timing, and Lane just can't do it alone. There's much that director Jack O'Brien could have been done here — multi-racial casting. A female reporter or mayor...For 'The Front Page' to work in our contemporary era, it needs a rewrite." Full Review

Preview cherry orchard
30
WNYC

"Karam tries something interesting here. Working off a literal, word-by word translation, he adapted Chekhov's archaic words into something resonantly contemporary...The lustrous cast all seasoned professionals, nonetheless flail around, acting in different versions of the same play, searching for some commonality to unite them. But they never find an emotional connection with each other or with us. And when the cherry orchard is chopped down, we feel nothing." Full Review

Preview verso
90
WNYC

"This investigation into the stories we tell ourselves and how we can change them makes 'Verso' more like a strangely lovely work of theater than an ordinary magic show. It focuses not simply on amazing and entertaining us, but on opening our minds to ideas we might find hard to believe. He seals the deal with a final, startling trick — that makes us believe that perhaps he's right, and the impossible is possible after all." Full Review

Preview sit white
50
WNYC

"Quijada is a vivacious talent…But the show is called, ‘Where Did We Sit on the Bus?’…Before the civil rights movement, black people sat in the back of the bus…But where were Latinos?...A show exploring that question is something I'd really like to see. Quijada doesn't do that, focusing on autobiography…It seems a particularly tone-deaf dispatch in our current, racially-charged political moment. And surprisingly shallow for a performer who clearly has sparkling depths." Full Review

Preview caught1
80
WNYC

"It's not a mystery but rather, a series of scenes in which each one changes the context of the previous scene — leading you to ask what is true and how you can be sure....Chen's play has no narrative. And to say too much would ruin the experience. Let's just say that Evans keeps all the reversals from being confusing. Instead, they're disorienting in the best possible way, leading you to question everything you thought you knew." Full Review

Preview incognito1
60
WNYC

"It's the sort of faux-deep play that's so fun to watch in the moment that it's only afterward you realize something is missing. What's absent is story lines and characters that we come to care about...Payne's play is well-constructed, and there are surprise connections that are satisfying to piece together—but these don't outweigh a longing for a true narrative with a stronger point of view...His lack of conviction makes 'Incognito' a set of individual stories that don't hold together." Full Review

Preview 13954 5
70
WNYC

"After an exuberant, thrilling first act, the weight of all that history drags down the second...There's no lack of talent, certainly...But Wolfe doesn't just want to entertain. He wants to get across that the forefathers and foremothers of these talented artists were crippled by American racism...Instead of sweeping us up in the history, it turns to lecturing...That's too bad, because that first act is really astonishing." Full Review

Preview 14836 1
80
WNYC

"Burgess's play is a parable, really, a story from the finance-sector's point-of-view about why money so often trumps humanity in a capitalist society. It's funny, sleek and well-told, thanks to director Thomas Kail, who whirls his four-person cast across the stage, set in the round. Claire Danes has great comic timing as Jenny, a woman who cares more about numbers than people...It may not be the world we want to live in, but 'Dry Powder' says it's the world we have." Full Review

Preview rsz familiar
45
WNYC

"'Familiar' has too many characters and too many shallowly-developed story lines...Yet there's a lot to like. A play about well-off African immigrants and the conflict they feel when faced with poorer, more traditional relatives is refreshing to see on stage — and it's an engaging idea. Plus, much of the first act is very funny...The play isn't helped by surprisingly stilted direction from Rebecca Taichman, who's work is normally very fluid. Mostly, this feels like a missed opportunity." Full Review

Preview nicefish1
90
WNYC

"Written by Rylance and Jenkins, 'Nice Fish' draws heavily on the poet's work. It's a theatrical experiment, an existential poem, that takes place in the flat, almost featureless landscape of a frozen lake in Minnesota...All the giddy silliness has a point — life is unpredictable and weird and often formless. Erik and Ron are afloat on an ice floe...They bravely face life's futility with jokes, thoughtful observations, and the desire to simply catch a nice fish." Full Review

Preview grandparadise
85
WNYC

"Mostly a dance theater piece...the heart of it comes in the monologues, which are intimate, moving scenes about the nature of time, and loss, and unfulfilled desire. When immersion theater works, it is because it becomes something you are experiencing rather than something you are watching. The best of it is a little disorienting, a little exotic, a bit joyful, sometimes a bit frightening...'The Grand Paradise' does all this. It's worth the trip." Full Review

Preview sor showscore 264x392
60
WNYC

"The kids are really, really charming. And talented....The sunny easiness of the story and the cuteness of the kids is marred by two things. First, rampant gay stereotypes...And second, Patty is written as a one-noted witch...These flaws — and the very traditional staging and script — make the show feel cynical, like it's pandering to the audience's worst tendencies. If only it had been brave enough to break out of its own musical theater box." Full Review

Preview dames180
75
WNYC

"Director and choreographer Randy Skinner doesn't take the show too seriously, which is a good thing. It's a cotton candy plot we've heard before…But the cast of six is tremendous, and the focus stays squarely on the thundering tap dancing, where it belongs. Plus, there are some clever moments…The show isn't a dazzler, but it's a fun, family-friendly musical that will be a holiday season crowd-pleaser. You might just find yourself tap dancing home." Full Review

Preview eclipsed180
85
WNYC

for a previous production "Powerful 'Eclipsed' shines Off Broadway...It's dark, intense stuff. And yet director Liesl Tommy also brings out the lightness and the humanity...The story's main tension comes not from the looming brutality of the unseen men around them, but the very different ways the women choose to survive the war." Full Review

Preview img 0127
80
WNYC

“There's a sense that there's a darkness underlying everything. This sense is only heightened as each woman, in monologue, describes a secret that darkens her life. The secrets are expressed so vividly that we are right there with them, feeling their internal claustrophobia as they wrestle with themselves. Churchill perfectly captures the roiling anxiety of our current strange days. Yet it's not a dismal play. The women are wry and funny and smart and tough.” Full Review

Preview 299518
55
WNYC

"Playwright Tanya Saracho has big ambitions here: 'Fade' is built around issues of race and class and immigration. She herself is a TV writer and the early scenes have a delicious, insider quality that smack of the autobiographical...But the dialogue can veer into lecturing, which is hard to take from the irritating Lucia...As the play goes on, and the scenes become interminably long, it becomes less and less credible or engaging." Full Review

Preview 800x1200 jitney
95
WNYC

"It was rewritten several times before his death in 2005, and it's now close to perfect. And as directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, this is a magnificent production, one of the best shows to be staged this year. The ensemble conveys authenticity and a sparkling vibrancy...The drivers in 'Jitney' have a deep respect for one another and we have a deep respect for them. To generate this kind of empathy is art's highest purpose." Full Review

Preview 82707 9
65
WNYC

"That party scene perfectly captures the louche feeling of the carousers. But Upton's adaptation bumbles along afterward, trapping them in hours of misty talking...There's a lot to like here, including clever references, poetic monologues and cagey wit, but it doesn't always feel like the same play. And yet. Try to take your eyes off Cate Blanchett. You can't. No matter who's talking, she has Anna simmering at a boil, her frustration and anger ready to explode." Full Review

Preview rsz the babylon line
80
WNYC

"We're never worried the married teacher might end up with the married student — which stalls the narrative engine of the play. Happily, it doesn't much matter, because Greenberg's eloquence and sly wit translate into scenes of biting beauty when the students start reading their writing." Full Review

Preview download
90
WNYC

"A musical unlike anything else on Broadway...As incredible as the set is, though, it's not the star. That billing belongs, not to the velvet-voiced pop star Josh Groban who plays Pierre, but to Broadway newcomer Denée Benton. Benton sparkles as Natasha...Whimsy and wit permeates 'The Great Comet.' It's a dazzling production. Like the comet it's named for, the show brings wonder in its wake." Full Review

Preview keyart 01
70
WNYC

"In other roles, Schreiber radiates a dark, dangerous masculinity, but here he's earnest, almost puppyish...That geniality saves him when it comes to an uncomfortable scene that would seem a lot like a rape in another actor's hands...No one can look at anyone else when McTeer is on stage anyway. The minute she walks through the doorway of her crumbling drawing room, her skirts swishing silently, the candle chandeliers flickering across her face, she is the queen of her domain." Full Review

Preview rsz plenty
40
WNYC

"It's a complicated play, told as a shattered, out-of-order narrative. It can be tough to know what's happening. This production, directed by David Leveaux, certainly doesn't make it clear. There are few anchors to let us know when, exactly, something is occurring...You might find yourself feeling sorry for Susan, and agreeing with her husband that she might be healthier in a facility — instead of rooting for her freedom, as you're meant to." Full Review

Preview heisenberg
80
WNYC

"Parker and Arndt don't have sexual chemistry, exactly. The stage isn't burning up. But they do seem to enjoy each other, and the result is a realistic, affectionate bond that deepens as the play emotionally opens up. Stephens is adept at sparking compassion for irritating characters, which Georgie and Alex both are...'Heisenberg' is not rocket science—or particle physics. It's just a sweet story about two people who think they don't deserve love." Full Review

Preview 82854 2
95
WNYC

"It's one of the most extraordinary shows I've ever seen...The adventure moves swiftly and it's funny, disturbing, surprising. But what will really capture you is the way the story is told, through radio play-like audio that is completely immersive...As we travel with McBurney, fear for him, he becomes more open to the mysteries of the world. And so do we." Full Review

Preview final thewolves poster copy
75
WNYC

for a previous production "'The Wolves' does something completely unexpected: it shows us teenage girls without cliché...There are no types here. There are just people. Which is why it's such a raging disappointment that a tragic event comes from nowhere at the end. It felt like a betrayal...The shift at the end turns it into a different play. It's heavy-handed and not necessary. But it doesn't discount the wonder that DeLappe has created in the beginning." Full Review

Preview layover white
40
WNYC

"Did he want something to start? Did she? What lies are OK to tell to strangers? These are all interesting questions, made crisply exciting by Trip Cullman's sleek direction. But while Headland touches on them briefly, she doesn't look at the 'whys' in depth. Instead, 'The Layover' is part dark comedy, part murky thriller. We know something bad is going to happen because of some heavy foreshadowing. But when that something bad does happen, it's neither unexpected nor revelatory." Full Review

Preview bianco white
75
WNYC

"'Bianco' is punk rock circus. It's loud, rowdy, and punches the space with energy. The acrobats fall. They miss their catches. All of which makes you appreciate how hard they're working...Even more jaw dropping: they are close to the audience. Very close...That said, 'Bianco' is long and slightly repetitive at two hours...Yet the show ends with such beautiful, joyous imagery that the audience revels in being part of such an intimate performance." Full Review

Preview long.day.cast
60
WNYC

“Lange is masterful here...When she's onstage, no one's as compelling. When she's not, however, the show drags...John Gallagher, Jr. is miscast...never fully connecting with anyone else on stage. That lack of connection is actually a problem for more cast members than Gallagher. Under Jonathan Kent's direction, this show, particularly in the second act, feels more like an excuse for showboat acting than an organic portrait of a family in decline." Full Review

Preview 18592 show portrait large
85
WNYC

"Director Joe Mantello keeps the show uncomfortable. The power dynamic between Una and Ray constantly shifts, as they stalk through the small conference room like caged animals, their claws bared. These are two people who can only be understood by each other — their relationship is complex and sometimes horrifying. But Williams and Daniels help us believe that these two distressed individuals are real and that we should care about both of them." Full Review

Preview hughie180
45
WNYC

"O'Neill is known for his compassionate, nuanced portrayals of such sad-sack characters. Indeed, this short work is a wonderful character study and an affecting portrait of grief. What it isn't is a compelling narrative. Not a lot happens in 'Hughie' — and the one thing that does, toward the end, is so unbelievable, it warps the story. It makes sense that the play was never produced during the playwright's lifetime." Full Review

Preview hum 800x1200 v1  1
95
WNYC

“Stephen Karam's insightful, melancholy, it's funny-because-it's-true drama ‘The Humans’ is about the fears of one family…Joe Mantello, directing the outstanding original cast, balances everyday irritations and genuine eerieness delicately, so that it simultaneously feels mysteriously fable-like and grounded in reality…That's what's so beautiful and moving about ‘The Humans.’ This family doesn't just take each other apart — they put each other back together again.” Full Review

Preview sojourners1
85
WNYC

"Director Ed Sylvanus Iskandar has staged this deeply beautiful, complex new play with both compassion and humor...'Sojourners' is the first in a proposed nine-work play cycle. By itself, it's a rich piece, looking at how America changes the people who come here, for better and for worse." Full Review

Preview url
70
WNYC

"Director Phyllida Lloyd used a similar framing for 2013's 'Julius Caesar' also at St. Ann's, but it is less successful here. It is not always clear when the prisoners are being prisoners and when they are playing Shakespeare…Harriet Walter is sleekly powerful as both Henry the Fourth and a prison kingpin...The show runs a fairly quick two-and-a-half hours with no intermission and the trimming gives quite a different spin to the play." Full Review

Preview gingamenew180
50
WNYC

"'The Gin Game' suffers from an unusual problem: James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson share a tender chemistry...But D.L. Coburn's 1977 play doesn't have a sentimental word. And it's funny, certainly, but not romantic. Instead, 'The Gin Game' is a vicious look at the ways we turn on others when our losses pile up and our vulnerabilities are exposed...But as directed by Leonard Foglia, this production never turns into a strategic assault...The result is unsatisfying. Jones and Tyson are worth a b... Full Review