Michael Bracken

Michael Bracken is a critic with Theater Pizzazz. 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 (106)
Rinse, Repeat
Midtown W
Theater Pizzazz

"Domenica Feraud has written and plays the main character Rachel in 'Rinse, Repeat' at Signature Theater Center. The story is about eating disorders and family dynamics as the family quibbles with each other on Rachel's test weekend home after spending 4 months at a facility to help rein in the problem...the story needs better focus." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“Director Leah C. Gardiner takes advantage of the entire theater space at Playwrights Horizons, as actors venture out into the audience, running across the theater and up and down the aisles. But ‘If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka’ ultimately disappoints. What could have been a provocative exploration fails to zero in on anything meaningful. Its examination of beauty is barely skin deep.” Full Review

Blue Ridge
Chelsea
Theater Pizzazz

“Magar brings an effortless grace to Rosebrock’s flowing script. Nothing seems forced or hurried...A quiet play, but it’s never dull. It has its occasional explosions, and its dialogue is peppered with literary allusions, humor, and unexpected personal details...Characters are well-etched. Firmly anchored by Marin’s Alison...it tells a story that’s surprisingly satisfying in its lack of resolution and surprisingly engaging given its deceptively meandering pace.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“’Cher’ needs three actresses to play its title character because it spans most of Cher’s life...Block stands out with a take no prisoners performance that is simply fantastic...Being a superstar is hard work, and I have no doubt that Cher paid her dues and then some, but it’s a stretch to buy into her being a victim...Luckily, there is far more singing than sulking...The show, like Cher’s career, has a few valleys, but for the most part...Moore keeps it exciting, with lots of glitz and glitt... Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"As dark as things get for Gladys by the end of the show, for much of it she shines. And in May’s hands she’s a glorious beacon...Funny. God, is she funny. May’s phrasing is flawless...Lonergan’s lines aren’t always humorous in and of themselves. But they’re tailor made for laughs in the mouth of a sprightly old woman...Director Lila Neugebauer’s top priority is giving May plenty of room to light up the stage. As well it should be." Full Review

Fireflies
Chelsea
Theater Pizzazz

“Lovely and lyrical...Love’s ‘Fireflies' is disarmingly powerful...Wise is wonderful as Olivia. She maneuvers through the play’s twists and turns with understated grace, going with the flow...As Charles, Davis provides an excellent foil...Ali’s direction is concise and exact...’Fireflies’ is more haunting than exciting. It’s the kind of play that stays with you after the curtain goes down, even though you may not realize it." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"For all its karma of catastrophe, 'I Was Most Alive' doesn’t seem grim or heavy. Lucas has often displayed a talent for deflecting tragedy in the darkest of situations with dialogue, characters, and attitudes quirky enough to distract from the bad news. So while this play is less comic than some of his other work, it’s still hard to take completely seriously...The gears shift from black comedy to high drama and present to past frequently and smoothly...Often riveting and never boring." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Blain-Cruz sets a pace that’s deliberate but not laggard...As in the script, a somber mood predominates but it’s broken up regularly with flashes of light and color...Blanco’s costumes are eye-catching...While hardly a walk in the park, ‘The House That Will Not Stand’ is not as grim as ‘The House of Bernarda Alba'. By loosening, just a little, the stays in Bernarda’s corset, Gardley has created a dynamic, layered variation on a classic." Full Review

A Blanket of Dust
Soho/Tribeca
Theater Pizzazz

"Squires’ drama fails to make a cogent case for its hypothesis. It rambles, repeats, and even contradicts itself. Starts on a strong dramatic note...Murrah’s direction is cohesive, but cohesion is hardly enough to make this drama work. The play’s seriousness and misguided idealism weigh heavy. Fraser’s Vanessa and Andrew’s fleeting whimsy are the only hints of levity, and they’re just not enough to deflate 'A Blanket of Dust’s' self-importance." Full Review

Tremor
Midtown E
Theater Pizzazz

“Birch’s intense, riveting drama...A simmering verbal confrontation that starts out strong and never looks back as the two-character play careens forward...A beautifully constructed back and forth that seems to never stop for air...Mercatali keeps the production’s brisk pace on track...The tension never lets up. You find yourself hanging on every word, engrossed in the dynamic of two fine actors and their absorbing characters." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"The play leans heavily on pre-existing Potter staples, both in the present and the past...Scorpius and Albus are two of a kind, outsiders looking in. Watching their friendship develop and grow is one of the play’s more enjoyable aspects, although at times it’s a little too sticky-sweet...Tiffany keeps things moving but can’t impose much substance on the drama. Among the large cast, Boyle especially stands out as real and likable, even when he has to deliver soppy dialogue." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"The musical's story line hews very closely to the original...And it's still good for a laugh...Its satire could definitely use some sting. It has an instinctive comic sensibility, but it doesn't go far enough with it...'Mean Girls' is characterized by a sameness...that slows it down despite its often-frenetic movement...The choreography and direction has a genuine teenage quality to it, but the dancers look crowded and their moves staccato. The music is generic Broadway defanged rock." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Kushner’s opus seems as timely and relevant as it did twenty-five years ago...It’s a tribute to Kushner’s writing that all these unlikely pairings seem completely natural. Elliott also gets credit for the uneasy yet unobtrusive marriage of the mundane and the phenomenal...Elliott has certainly managed to get extraordinary performances from her fine cast...What’s so striking about 'Angels in America' is the richness of its story and the depth of its characters." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"A powerful story, fueled by powerful writing, is brought vividly to life by director Awoye Timpo in a production that’s both simple and evocative...Udofia’s take on her is spot on. She taps into Kelechi’s nervous, somewhat bitchy, energy quite well...Director Timpo uses these four women to great effect, and they, in their dazzlingly colorful plumage, are captivating as they laugh, sing, smile, talk, fold clothes, or stand in silence." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"What a gift!...It’s not just physical prowess that makes Lithgow’s performance beguiling. Pacing and emotional truth inform his creation of a small-minded barber chronicling the exploits of the town clown...Lithgow is hilarious as all four participants in the foray and as Fred, stirring the pot...All are uproariously exaggerated, and Lithgow has a ball savoring their rollicking reality. So do we." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"'Farinelli' starts slowly but finds its footing a few scenes in...Even after it’s up and running, it slips into a mild torpor here and there. As good as Rylance is, Philippe’s madness can be just a little too cute, peppered with wit that doesn’t feel organic...Dove hasn’t determined how to even out the bumps in Van Kampen’s script...If 'Farinelli and the King' gets bogged down now and then–and it does–it also has its memorable elements, including its impeccable sense of time and place." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Cryptic, lyrical, engrossing, if occasionally ponderous...What distinguishes Joseph’s work is his non-linear time line...It can get confusing—he’s not overly generous with clues—but it’s also intriguing...Sardelli’s direction is straightforward but just a little bit sluggish...Burstein and Grenier make perfect foils for each other, as both friends and foes...'Describe the Night' effectively summons up the Cold War era in a very character-driven way." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"It’s long on charm but short on actual commentary about the island’s nuanced color-driven hierarchy...Flaherty’s score is consistently pleasing...Camille A. Brown’s choreography is somewhat pedestrian, but it comes alive in 'Ti Moune’s Dance,' where Kilgore and Brown pull out all the stops for an exciting African number...Yet for all its flaws, 'Once on This Island' still delights with its lilting score and its lucid telling of a guileless folktale." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"It pulses with the vitality of Fierstein’s script and a virtuoso performance by Michael Urie as Arnold, bolstered by the rest of the excellent cast...Ruehl's timing and instincts are impeccable...Kaufman’s direction is crisp and smooth; everything flows as it should...Revisiting 'Torch Song' is like running into an old friend you didn’t even know you missed, in awe at how good it is to see them." Full Review

I Lost You There
West Village
Theater Pizzazz

"Bahr keeps her characters wonderfully life-sized, never overplaying or overwriting them...Her subtlety turns out to be a double-edged sword, however. When a character appears, we’re not always sure, at least not at first, whether it’s a new character or one we’ve seen before...‘I Lost You There’ is more humorous than funny. There are no brilliant zingers or laugh-out-loud one liners. But there is a somewhat sophisticated comic sensibility." Full Review

Mary Jane
East Village
Theater Pizzazz

"A luminous Coon strives fearlessly to make 'Mary Jane' work as a drama. And she comes awfully close to succeeding. But she can’t quite manage to give the spirited, often funny, but ultimately directionless play a raison d’être...A character study of a vibrant flesh-and-blood character. But it doesn’t go anywhere new or deep. It’s a huge cut above a disease-of-the-week TV movie in terms of its intelligence and its lack of sentimentality, but at its core it’s not all that different." Full Review

A Never-Ending Line
Greenwich V
Theater Pizzazz

"It may or may not be a case of too many cooks, but the brew is spoiled in any event...Arrangements for most songs have vocals and accompaniment at odds with each other, on separate melodic tracks that are not complementary...Staging is simple, which works well for this type of entertainment...Lyrics are sometimes clever, occasionally moving, often pedestrian. Singers are, for the most part, fine; direction is efficient. But nothing is remarkable." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"A superficial series of songful sketches...If the characters Ben encounters had some substance, we might not mind his being paper thin. But they don’t, and we do. Caldwell and Merrick both sing well and try their best, with varying success, to breathe life into characters who tend to me one-dimensional stereotypes. DeNise fares better...Gosselin directs efficiently, but his choreography seems amateurish...Friedman’s score is bland, and Kellogg’s lyrics strained." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Kelley’s Bella is delightful. Wide-eyed with a high-pitched voice, she’s innocence personified, with a tee hee giggle that makes her seem like a child...'Tall Tale' gets a little unwieldy here and there, but for the most part director Robert O’Hara keeps it on track...'Bella, an American Tall Tale' is, for the most part, a study in frivolity that sometimes lights up the stage and sometimes doesn’t." Full Review

Somebody's Daughter
Upper W Side
Theater Pizzazz

"'Somebody’s Daughter' has it all: crisp comedy, interesting, complex characters, and two parallel plots that are all over each other yet each strong enough to stand on their own. And this production boasts a cast whose members are immersed in their roles with a passion that’s both consuming and nonchalant…Adrales’ direction is as sharp as Hutchinson’s dialogue…It delivers a steady stream of hearty laughs, while at the same time truly engaging the audience on a compelling emotional level." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Linklater is fantastic as Guy. Smooth as silk, he rides every wave of dialogue with the confidence of a seasoned surfer...'The Pain of My Belligerence' has a simple structure and wonderful flow. Some steamy sex as well. Director Trip Cullman is in sync with its rhythms and keeps it on course with a steady stream of unforced energy. Feiffer’s work has more substance than is initially evident." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Arguably Shepard’s funniest play. But don’t worry. There’s no shortage of the playwright’s penchant for ominous menace hovering over the...production...Hawke is on fire...His Lee is the darkest incarnation of the alpha male...As intimidating as Lee is, he’s equally funny...Dano makes Austin more of a milquetoast than he needs to...The second act is not as riveting as the first...It’s a little forced at times...Macdonald’s precise direction makes a taut drama even tighter." Full Review

Noura
Midtown W
Theater Pizzazz

"Director Joanna Settle, who has teamed with Raffo before, clearly understands the play and its heroine, but she can’t quite put it over the top. Inspired by Ibsen’s 'A Doll’s House' but possessing a personality very much its own, 'Noura' deals with important personal themes for its main character and the playwright. These issues are largely internal, making them challenging to dramatize, and Raffo only partly meets the challenge." Full Review

Days of Rage
Midtown W
Theater Pizzazz

“Levenson’s murky comedy turns out to be a satire of the sixties, but that’s not initially clear. His jibes at the counterculture are too few and too faint. Eventually they gain traction but it’s too little, too late...A director is limited by the material he or she is given but sometimes can transcend it by directing outside the box. That doesn’t happen here...More pronounced visuals might have helped ‘Days of Rage’ find itself onstage.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“A lively apolitical foray into the world of journalism...All three actors are in sync and they’re all fabulous...The writing is deceptive in a very good way. It often seems like the authors are merely scraping the surface for laughs, when they’re also reinforcing the thematic conflict between overall spirit and individual specifics in reportage...Silverman’s direction is of the highest order. The production is completely organic. One scene flows into the next naturally and logically.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

for a previous production "What does the Constitution mean to playwright-actress Heidi Schreck? Any number of sharply observed, pointedly challenged, deeply appreciated, and honestly questioned things, which comprise 'What the Constitution Means to Me'...'Constitution' has a couple of false notes, but they’re truly minor...Schreck is a marvel. Her mostly monologue has the casual intimacy of a conversation with a friend and the authority of encyclopedic erudition." Full Review

Separate and Equal
Midtown E
Theater Pizzazz

“Panitch’s hard hitting, sometimes heavy-handed drama takes place in Birmingham in the 1950’s, when separate was a fact of life and equal a non-starter.,,Panitch elicits strong performances all around. ‘Separate and Equal’ is often less than clear...Yet for all its lapses, the play is a potent memento of the legacy of segregation.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Shapiro’s direction seems effortless as the play navigates the seasonal joy that suddenly turns sour...Extraneous ornamentation notwithstanding, 'Straight White Men' is a powerful piece of theater that asks the same universal questions Matt is asking about his own identity. Three sons from the same environment have ingested the same core values in strikingly different ways. This production is like a Christmas present with too much wrapping, but once you open the box, you love what’s inside." Full Review

The Great Leap
Chelsea
Theater Pizzazz

“For the most part, ‘The Great Leap’ is a story well told. Three-dimensional characters, albeit with single defining traits, interact in ways that are sometimes very funny and consistently entertaining. The play’s surprise ending is a stretch. It’s set up well – enough information for you to see it coming; not so much as to be obvious – but the surprise itself seems contrived. Still, it provides insight into both Manford and Wen, who each obtain their own insight into themselves and each other.” Full Review

Dance Nation
Midtown W
Theater Pizzazz

“It takes off regularly for the melodramatic and fanciful. Unfortunately, its flights don’t always land smoothly...Where ‘Dance Nation’ gets into trouble is when it has its characters wax anthemic...Evans is right in tune with the play’s humor...Evans is wise to tread lightly, not pandering to the easy laugh...'Dance Nation' intrigues with its probing into the heads of putative thirteen-year-olds sitting atop older bodies. But when it takes itself too seriously, it quickly loses its charm.” Full Review

This Flat Earth
Midtown W
Theater Pizzazz

"Taichman’s direction is affectionately gentle – how could she not feel affection for Ferrentino’s beautiful script? Director and writer are of one mind and present a story that resonates. The cast is uniformly marvelous. Davis shines in petulant innocence, while Saint-Germain is only slightly more mature...Beck’s Lisa is far more chipper than a mother who lost her child should be, using cheerfulness as a very effective shield from the sorrow underneath." Full Review

Lobby Hero
Midtown W
Theater Pizzazz

"Cera makes an outstanding Jeff...What makes 'Lobby Hero' so intriguing are its shifting alliances and its subjective interpretations of what passes for truth. It's a tight, taught play that director Cullman keeps that way...This is 2nd Stage’s first presentation at its new Broadway home, and they’ve chosen a rock solid vehicle with which to make their debut. Let’s hope for equally high quality, and perhaps more challenging, productions as it settles in." Full Review

Cardinal
Midtown W
Theater Pizzazz

"Pierce's tepid drama...Whoriskey needs to pull in her leading lady. Chlumsky's enthusiasm is charming at first, but...Her earnest appeals become tired and tiring...The play itself is uncertain. It doesn't seem to know where it's headed, so it's not headed anywhere. It needs pruning and a clearer point of view. It raises questions about topics like values, but it doesn't really have a take on them....'Cardinal' feels static. There's more than enough motion but not much movement." Full Review

Miles for Mary
Midtown W
Theater Pizzazz

"The winning play fulfills the company’s mission with little fanfare and much affection...Truly a case of creation by committee, rather than being pulled in different directions, it is amazingly cohesive. Director and cast are one. It’s hard to single anyone out because they’re so enmeshed with each other...Devoid of bells and whistles, 'Miles for Mary' celebrates the truly mundane with an eye for detail and an ear for humor." Full Review

Mankind
Midtown W
Theater Pizzazz

"It doesn’t give a clue as to what one needs to be cautious about...O’Hara’s direction of his own work is generally more elaborate than the material warrants. Religion and abortion are clearly targets of 'Mankind', but whether it hits them is another matter...Despite their shaky material, Mount, and especially Moreno, shine as Mark and Jason. While everything and everyone around them flounders, they remain grounded. They bring solidity to a play that hasn’t quite found its footing." Full Review

Counting Sheep
Financial
Theater Pizzazz

"It delivers as advertised on the immersive folk opera front. Its guerrilla credentials are a little shaky, but that’s probably for the best...Kevin Newbury gets high-octane interactive performances from his game troupe and displays an innate sense of crowd dynamics. 'Counting Sheep' works well as a euphoric party in the context of a crusade for socio-political change, but it doesn’t do a whole lot to give that crusade historical context or even define what the crusade is." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"The musical is as effervescent as its boyish leading man. Still, Slater must – and does -ensure the comic, user-friendly tone is set and maintained...Director Tina Landau deftly pulls all the pieces together and delivers a package that works on all levels, breaking some of the rules along the way. The lack of creature-specific costumes in this type of enterprise is rare and welcome...Courtesy of Kyle Jarrow’s clever, efficient book, Landau has reeled in a whale of a good time." Full Review

M. Butterfly
Midtown W
Theater Pizzazz

"A stunning production. Playwright David Henry Hwang has made some minor revisions, but the play still packs the dramatic wallop it did in 1988...Hats off to Taymor, who peppers the play with vivid pageantry bursting with color...Yet Taymor’s sense of spectacle never gets in the way of what, if rocky and ultimately tragic, is a tender love story...Taymor, Owen, and Ha make major contributions to this exciting production, but it’s Hwang’s tight, toned and fluid script that is the star." Full Review

Turbulence
Soho/Tribeca
Theater Pizzazz

"Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night. 'Turbulence!' rocks the Soho Playhouse more than Margo Channing could ever have imagined. The bumps are actually convulsions of laughter evoked by the hilarity onstage...Music is light and tuneful. Songs maintain the same mock seriousness that infuses the spoken parts of the show. Pritchard keeps it amazingly smooth...It’s all of a piece, with fine performances all around from the game cast." Full Review

The Treasurer
Midtown W
Theater Pizzazz

"Posner sets Jacob and Ida up as perfect foils for each other: protagonist and antagonist in a serious conflict punctuated by laugh lines...Dunagan is delightful as Ida...As Jacob, Peter Friedman is likable but more complex and far more tortured than his mother...The struggle between Ida and her son keeps our attention with its humor and familiarity. Our involvement would be more acute and the piece more affecting if mother and son were more evenly matched." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“Stephens uses this technique, feeding us pieces of the plot second-hand and after the fact, just enough to pique our interest without making us feel cheated of the live action...Director Neil Pepe ensures that every element is aligned with and complements every other. Pacing, placement, and design couldn’t be better.. And the performances he elicits from his cast are marvelous…It is, of course, Stephens’s wonderful script that makes it all possible." Full Review

A Parallelogram
Midtown W
Theater Pizzazz

“Keenan-Bolger deftly carries the very engaging if not completely satisfying dark comedy with major assistance from a fantastic supporting cast…Gillette is a delight as Bees 2, 3, and 4…Greif’s direction is spot-on. He and his cast tell a tale that’s eminently laughable but tinged with sadness, even desperation…Norris’s play, in addition being very funny, is intelligent and incisive, which is why its ending disappoints…‘A Parallelogram’ sets us up for a strong finish but doesn’t deliver.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"The Drilling Company has no problem whipping up a high-spirited production of Shakespeare’s 'All’s Well That Ends Well'...While it has some dark overtones for a comedy (hence the 'problem'), this production joyfully embraces its comic core. A parking lot is the perfect venue for a play with a slightly split personality...Karla Hendrick’s direction is inventive." Full Review

Animal
Chelsea
Theater Pizzazz

“Hall’s performance in Lizzimore’s drama is a force of nature...What’s most amazing about Hall’s performance (fueled by Lizzimore’s stinging dialogue) is the seemingly infinite variety she displays…Playwright and actress, guided by the sure hand of director Upchurch, collaborate to reveal a deeply troubled woman…One doesn’t necessarily expect the roller-coaster ride that is 'Animal' to come to a conclusion, no less one that is neat. But it does...Viscerally it’s ever so slightly anticlimactic." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“First and foremost, Brown is an entertainer. He clearly loves being in the spotlight and makes you feel like he belongs there…He’s an enigma, and his persona is so deeply imbued into what he does that actor and act reinforce each other, creating an air of mystery and impenetrability that’s intriguing yet also the tiniest bit off-putting in that you can’t get close to him…The result is refreshingly direct, and the audience members who participate seem to enjoy themselves.” Full Review