Joseph Pisano

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Reviews (55)

Cue the Irish Rep and its remounting of artistic director Charlotte Moore's musical The Streets of New York, which the theatre first premiered twenty years ago in the aftermath of September 11. An affectionate adaptation of Dion Boucicault's 1857 melodrama The Poor of New York, it returns in the wake of a different tragedy--a global pandemic that has claimed nearly 800,000 American lives and more than five million human beings worldwide--sharing the same social conscience as the Dickens class... Full Review

Autumn Royal

"First-time playwright Kevin Barry brings the same full-hearted doom and gloom to the stage in Autumn Royal that was evidenced in his Booker-Prize-longlisted Night Boat to Tangier...In other words, Autumn Royal is the perfect midlife-crisis-cum-Covid play." Full Review

"A litany of well-known, as well as completely arcane, pop culture references from the era adds to the uncanny sense of time and place the series evokes, though, occasionally, some confusion creeps into memories of both as doubts arise about where one’s actual childhood began and The Goonies ended." Full Review

"Ciarán O'Reilly is throwing a good old-fashioned Irish wake, with poems, songs, and a slice of barmbrack (Irish sweet bread) for each of the lucky attendees. It's a charming and touching tribute to a woman whose literary efforts are usually far less appreciated, unfortunately, than her advocacy." Full Review

Maz and Bricks
Midtown E

"When it comes to the long, fraught history of the Irish, it's not always England's fault. Sometimes the wounds are self-inflicted. That's the knotty premise underlying playwright Eva O'Connor's 'Maz and Bricks,' a smart, if overly ambitious, 80-minute two-hander that blends the political with the personal." Full Review

"Thorne is not afraid to expand, or challenge, an audience's understanding of a well-known character with new details and interpretations. More importantly, he's also pretty darn good at it, giving his psychologically grounded Scrooge dimensions." Full Review

Bella Bella
Midtown W

"Methinks, this inquiry, and much of what follows it, is more about the current occupant of the White House than any previous one, which, no matter who Fierstein is pretending to be, still ends up coming off like mansplaining." Full Review

Midtown W

"The first act of Anna Moench's 'Mothers' concludes with a genuine shock as the playwright startlingly upends all of our expectations. … Unfortunately, what you soon begin to suspect is that Moench just ran out of narrative steam and started writing something else." Full Review

"Halley Feiffer's new comedy, the obsessively titled 'Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow,' is an intermittently funny ten-minute parody of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters. Unfortunately, it goes on for another hour and twenty-five minutes, tiresomely recycling jokes and shallow insights." Full Review

"Having also helmed that inaugural Irish Rep production of the play thirty years ago, director Charlotte Moore knows these characters well, perhaps even better than O'Casey knew them himself. While it's easy to get lost in O'Casey's verbosity, Moore continually focuses our sympathy where it should be and makes effective use of a talented cast to distract from some choppy plotting in the loosely connected acts." Full Review

"With his almost sneering delivery of Joxer's obsequious and vowel-rich responses ('it's a darlin' funeral, a daarlin' funeral'), Keating's performance is especially brilliant, pitched just before the point when servility turns into hate. As for Jack, O'Reilly brushes aside his litany of faults to make him a first-rate charmer, capable of snatching a smile from Juno even after he's brought the overburdened woman to her wit's end." Full Review

"Director Ciarán O'Reilly handles O'Casey's abrupt tonal shifts well, transitioning from laughter to tears to horror with barely a hint of contrivance. A top-notch production team greatly aids O'Reilly's quest for authenticity, turning the performance space into an impressive simulacrum of war-torn Dublin. Leading the effort is Charlie Corcoran, whose incredibly detailed set spreads out into the audience." Full Review

Alone It Stands
Midtown E

"Breen's script, a succession of rapid-fire vignettes divided in half by an unnecessary intermission, tries to compensate for its lack of depth with imagined multitudes. According to a flyer, the production's six actors portray a total of 62 characters. While I feel confident enough in my counting abilities to verify the former, I'll leave the latter to someone whose obsessiveness exceeds my own. That person might also have to be a little generous defining what constitutes a character." Full Review

Two By Friel
Theater Pizzazz

“’Lovers: Winners’: Unmitigated cynicism always carries a subversive thrill, but Friel is so enamored with his own scathing sensibility that he can’t tell when it has run its course...’The Yalta Game’, a far more complex and disturbing depiction of the uncertainties, delusions, and outright lies that inform so much of what we call love...The actors strengthen the material...Bagley tries to visually tie the two plays together at the end, but it’s a clunky and unnecessary effort.” Full Review


“Doubling down on Tarker's instincts, Blain-Cruz directs the play as if its greatest enemy is thinking too much about it. Popping up and ducking out all around Matt Saunders's blue-and-yellow pastel set, the actors recite their lines quickly, apparently unconcerned if all of them are heard. Zhao's garish lighting (a strobe effect goes on so long you wonder if it's actually intended to induce epilepsy) and Botez's sublimely awful costumes are also calibrated to distract from Tarker's words.” Full Review

Wild Abandon

"What our mothers owe us - and what we owe them - is at the heart of Leenya Rideout's one-woman autobiographical show, 'Wild Abandon.' In it, the prodigiously accomplished singer, songwriter, playwright, actor...comes to terms with both her mother's life and her own. Perhaps these twin goals converge a bit too neatly, especially given the harrowingly true complications Leenya introduces along the way, but there are so many hard-earned and poignant insights." Full Review

Midtown E

"As McMullen hammers home repeatedly, 'Agnes' is about the difficulty of forming human connections, but, for the most part, she hasn't written characters who should connect, because they're either too solipsistic or paper thin. Occasionally, she'll slip in a tragic detail to encourage the audience to see a character in a better light, but it's usually so overtly manipulative that it ends up undermining the intended effect." Full Review

"Perhaps unavoidably, 'Brecht on Brecht' often comes across as a series of highly polished auditions, eliciting the hope that, say, someone will actually cast Bryan and Hamel in a full production of 'The Threepenny Opera.' But it's also a stark reminder that many of Brecht's preoccupations should still be ours." Full Review

"Unfortunately, O'Reilly's heavy reliance on the production team is also indicative of a significant problem: the play is repetitive. Despite finding new, and often lovely, poetic ways to convey the centrality of death to life, Carr's thoughts and arguments quickly begin to sound like the same melody over and over again, just in a different key. O'Reilly tries to distract us from this fault by giving the Gottlieb-Rumery-Corcoran trio creative free rein." Full Review

Midtown E

"To be sure, there are examples of talented playwrights who have also been able to tread the boards without tripping over their feet, or tongues. Harold Pinter, Noël Coward, Tracy Letts: they all come quickly to mind. Some theater historians have even argued that Shakespeare might have been a pretty good actor, too. But, still, it's exceedingly rare to find a playwright like Nicola Wren, who can bring her words to life with as much passion." Full Review

This Flat Earth
Midtown W

"Taichman, who won a Tony last year for helming 'Indecent,' is unable to add any depth to the proceedings or smooth over the script's awkward plotting and strange inconsistencies. The most grating example of the latter is when Julie, who is 13 years old, says she was unaware of any school shootings before the one she experienced. This type of sheltered innocence might fit Ferrentino's larger objectives, but it's completely at odds with the smart young person we've come to know." Full Review

Three Wise Guys
Midtown W

"Clocking in at a breezy 85 minutes, 'Three Wise Guys' doesn't come close to overstaying its welcome. But there is a sense that Evans and Couchman want to send us to the exits before we've had time to think about the plot holes they couldn't quite fill after mashing together the two Runyon stories. My advice? Just sit back and enjoy the con." Full Review

The Pill
East Village

“Akira Kurosawa's ‘Rashōmon,’ which ingeniously told its story from multiple character perspectives, has inspired countless others to concoct their own slippery tales. But, of course, most of these imitators struggle with the problem of not being Kurosawa. ‘The Pill,’ a family memoir comprised of several intergenerational viewpoints, is the latest proof that a plot device can only take you so far.” Full Review

“Composer Arthur Abrams and librettist/lyricist Tom Attea have taken up the challenge with results that are both sweet-natured and lackluster. Unlike our reality-TV-star-in-chief, who Attea's script refuses to name, ‘America's Favorite Newscaster’ is a shining model of restraint, never aiming its barbs too low but also rarely eliciting more than a polite chuckle.” Full Review

Cross That River
Midtown E

“Composed by Allan Harris, a noted jazz musician, the score starts off with an overture that's pure downtown cool, but, after the last funky rhythm subsides, Harris himself is on stage in a flannel-and-denim outfit as dusty as the range itself, donning a Stetson, and twanging a guitar. Incorporating country, jazz, blues, and gospel, what makes ‘Cross That River’ so instantly captivating is that from the get-go it looks and sounds like all of America, which is a wonderful place to begin.” Full Review

Far more profound is the extent to which she embodies each person the girl mentions, giving them life-like dimensions and, thus, indisputably justifying the entire adaptation's existence. Besides her incredible skill, the core of Murray's remarkable performance (or performances) is her bravery, which the equally fearless writing requires... Full Review

Six (Broadway)
Midtown W

"Indeed, as the queens take their respective turns in the spotlight, spectacle does overwhelm decorum, as the actors stunningly evoke the vocal stylings and stage presences of Beyoncé, Adele, Rihanna, and a few others I probably didn’t catch." Full Review

Tumacho (2020)
East Village

"To review dramatist/lyricist/composer Ethan Lipton's Tumacho almost feels like missing the point of this endearingly oddball 'play with songs,' a comic pastiche of Western and horror tropes that is essentially the theatrical equivalent of an old Hollywood B-movie." Full Review

Grand Horizons
Midtown W

"It's only a setup for Wohl's sitcomy follow-through, which never comes close to reaching such thrilling theatrical heights again. To be fair, the rest of 'Grand Horizons' is still pretty good in a Neil Simon sort of way." Full Review

for a previous production "But, as with most jukebox musicals, far too many songs simply don't connect enough to the surrounding story. At times, it actually seems as if a surprise concert has broken out during a play. Rather than attempt to bring these disparate pieces together, Paulus instead turns into the skid." Full Review


"... as Spallen's bleak triptych of longing and despair coalesces into a single devastating canvas, her characters' lives become as thoroughly unforgettable as anything that's been recorded in the headlines." Full Review

The Rose Tattoo
Midtown W

"To be sure, Serafina and Alvaro's romance is less than credible, but director Trip Cullman wisely commits to it completely, recognizing that Williams really hasn't given him any other choice. Luckily for Cullman, he has the ebullient Marissa Tomei to portray Serafina." Full Review

Only Yesterday
Midtown E

“As John, Christopher Sears is an enjoyable pill, perfectly offset by Tommy Crawford's Paul whose amiable placidity is almost Buddha-like. More importantly, both actors have impressive musical chops, which wonderfully serves Stevens' truncated overview of Paul and John's tuneful reminiscing about their musical influences...” Full Review

Midtown E
Theater Pizzazz

"While dramatizing these decidedly private interactions, Buffini never strays egregiously from the plausible, but she also lets the audience know...that her imagination is definitely calling the shots...Rubasingham is clearly adept at handling Buffini’s playwriting gymnastics, creating order out of what might have only amounted to charming chaos. The talented cast immeasurably aids Rubasingham’s clarifying efforts, adding depth to Buffini’s loosely sketched characters." Full Review

The Poor of New York
East Village

"One of the theater's most skilled 19th-century melodramatists, Boucicault was uninterested in the finer points of history, character development, or narrative objectivity which, of course, is why, as the Metropolitan Playhouse's lively revival of 'The Poor of New York' demonstrates, his works are often so much fun...Boucicault wasn't prone to letting a bunch of cumbersome details and ho-hum dramaturgical considerations get in the way of a good story or a necessary cause." Full Review

The Cradle Will Rock
East Village
Theater Pizzazz

"While it’s a great story of art fighting against censorship, that doesn’t necessarily mean the art itself was great. In making a case for the latter, the Classic Stage Company has stacked the deck impressively, restaging Blitzstein’s mostly sung-through work with a cast that could have given Welles’s legendary Mercury troupe a run for its money...Doyle’s left Blitzstein squarely in the past, speaking a radical language that doesn’t seem to connect anymore." Full Review

Mies Julie
East Village
Theater Pizzazz

"The buildup to the play’s final shocking moments is an incredibly intense dance of death...Farber’s play is more about ideas than what takes place on that much-stronger-than-it-looks kitchen table...Ali is adept at handling this aspect of Farber’s script, taking full advantage of the scorched-earth naturalism...Ali struggles, though, with Farber’s spiritualism...Fortunately, the crew’s collective talents are put to much better use heightening Julie and John’s passionate exchanges." Full Review

for a previous production "Although Chua is less interested in beauty for beauty's sake than Andersen, the look and sound of 'The Emperor's Nightingale is still stunning, drawing on a wealth of traditional Chinese art forms to both enliven and culturally ground the story. Leading the way are Wolfslau's period-inspired score and You-Shin Chen's eye-popping set, which pays lovely tribute to the art of Chinese paper cutting. Smith's lighting design nicely highlights all of the wonderful colors in Chen's set." Full Review

"Unfortunately, for a few long and aggravating stretches of the play, which takes place on Wilson Chin's perfectly rendered classroom set, Logan and Jaxton are just allowed to exchange inane beliefs without anyone around to tell them to shut the hell up. In a sense, I suppose, my twitching left eye was the fault of Bareilles and Keller for acting their mostly one-note roles so well. Though, to be fair, they do summon at least a little sympathy for a couple of extremely marginal theater artists." Full Review

On Beckett

"With wit, humility, and just the right amount of awe, Bill Irwin's 'On Beckett' pays tribute to the greatest Irish author in the history of France. Tackling this paradox and other much more profound ones, the actor, director, writer and clown wears all of his theatrical hats to intellectually and emotionally untangle some well-chosen snippets of Samuel Beckett's forbidding canon, including a few key passages from that head-scratching tragicomedy 'Waiting for Godot'" Full Review

“Of course, wondering why a supposedly loving supreme deity does nothing to help you through your earthly pain, is well-trod dramatic territory, which to be compelling either requires a playwright with a serious theological grounding or someone capable of turning the entire subject on its head. Unfortunately, Lucas takes a decidedly reductive route, turning the Abrahamic religions into more than two hours of tired platitudes for his thinly drawn characters to mouth.” Full Review

"In telling the rest of this shattering story, the creators of 'Comfort Women,' inexplicably, rely heavily on musical theater conventions that result in wrongheaded, if not downright offensive, choices. The most cringeworthy is the choreographed sequence of a Korean woman being gang raped by Japanese soldiers. At some point, in their effort to visualize this atrocity, director Dimo Hyun Jun Kim and choreographer Natanal Hyun Kim should have realized that they were, in fact, trivializing it." Full Review

Desperate Measures
Midtown W

"Shakespearean spoofs are almost as old as Shakespeare himself, dating back to at least the Restoration period. Although the vast majority has faded into history, there are still some real standouts like the classic musical 'Kiss Me, Kate,' which thanks largely to Cole Porter is arguably even more enjoyable than its source material, a rare feat that the relatively new musical 'Desperate Measures,' now in its second off-Broadway run, also accomplishes." Full Review

"There's a brilliant play buried somewhere in Churchill's 'Light Shining in Buckinghamshire,' a bottom-up historical epic about the English Civil War that the acclaimed British writer developed collaboratively with director Stafford-Clark and a group of actors back in 1976. Fifteen years later, it premiered stateside at the New York Theatre Workshop, where it has just returned for a ploddingly drawn-out second go-around that yielded a lot of empty second-act seats on the night I attended." Full Review

We Live by the Sea
Midtown E

“If, at this point, it sounds like Katy is an actual person, good, because she felt that way all throughout the remarkably engaging play ‘We Live By The Sea.’ As Katy, Alexandra Brain avoids all the acting shortcuts and, instead, gives a performance that is pure empathy. Whereas someone else may have been satisfied simply depicting the physical manifestations of Katy's mental condition, Brain beautifully achieves the much higher goal of humanizing Katy's autism.” Full Review

"In truth, only the much better known Synge offering, 'Riders to the Sea,' could rightly be called a masterpiece, though Lady Gregory's 'The Rising of the Moon' comes very close to earning this accolade as well. As for the equally obscure 'The Pot of Broth,' which Yeats wrote in collaboration with Lady Gregory, it's by far the lightest of the three works, both in tone and content. While it's entertaining enough...calling it a masterpiece is, at best, a tribute to good old-fashioned Irish hype... Full Review

East Village

"In the semi-autobiographical 'Terminus,' part of a seven-play cycle, playwright Gabriel Jason Dean unleashes this intriguing Southern Gothic setup, which touches off a deeply felt personal story about racism in a place that is obviously more real to Dean than imagined. Unfortunately, as it goes along, Dean's initially captivating ghost story exponentially loses steam, finally grinding to a halt well before Eller's big, shameful secret is revealed at the play's not-so-stunning conclusion." Full Review

A Kind Shot
Midtown W

“And that's essentially the problem with ‘A Kind Shot.’ Clocking in at 75 minutes, the ‘performance’ feels more like a motivational speech than a theatrical event. It's well-meaning and well-told, but other than the charismatic Mateer, there isn't much else to it. The set, a masking tape outline of a shrunken basketball key, accomplishes so little visually that it begs the question, ‘Why bother at all?’” Full Review

“If there's a criticism to be leveled at ‘A Regular Little Houdini,’ it's that it could be longer. Llewelyn-Williams, director Joshua Richards, and composer Meg Cox (the only three people listed in the program) seem to have been on their own in crafting the show, which might explain its brevity. And, if that's true, it's too bad, because I imagine Llewelyn-Williams has a lot more to say about the people of Newport, South Wales.” Full Review

“Adhering admirably to its cultural mission, Kairos Italy Theater is treating downtown audiences to a double-bill of smartly written Italian one-acts, each exploring the contentious topic of immigration in their own unique and achingly human ways, as part of its ‘AlieNation’ repertory. Minimally staged, but with talented actors, the beauty of the plays is largely in the playwrights' words, which seemingly have lost nothing in translation.” Full Review