Sandi Durell

About:  Sandi Durell is Publisher-Editor and Critic at TheaterPizzazz.com, a site that features over ten contributing writers in theater and cabaret. She has had a voice in these communities for over 25 years, is a voting member of the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards, member of the American Theat... Read more Read less
Reviews (148)
85
Theater Pizzazz

“In this revival of McCraney’s spirited and heart warming drama you’ll many times feel you’ve been warmly wrapped in the arms of the spirituals sung in gorgeous harmonies...You’ll hear some glorious spirituals, peppered with many insightful performances, in this coming of age story directed by Cullman who keeps a sharp eye on the fun stuff, with...well thought out scenic and costume designs, lighting...and notably strong choreography.” Full Review

80
Theater Pizzazz

"A very wacky-world. This zany, cleverly written musical addresses social issues with great emotional ups and downs while you laugh your socks off...Lessons are learned all around by everyone as thoughts, feelings and preconceived ideas about rules, right or wrong, religion and the Bible, begin to change...There’s terrific hi-energy ensemble dance in hot sequin sneakers...Definitely a fun night out at the theater going to a prom unlike one you’ve ever attended!" Full Review

70
Theater Pizzazz

“Sometimes, it’s difficult to know if scenes are flashbacks or unfulfilled wishes...Directed by Timpo, there seems to be more repetition than needed to get points across. The cast shines in its uniformly high level performance of Anyanwu’s play and, in particular, the playwright as Nkechi. But, I often wonder about the use of so much street language in these contemporary plays as it tends to denigrate rather than elevate and show a more respectful approach." Full Review

70
Theater Pizzazz

“A far reaching adaptation of the very familiar 1952 western...Tension filled...the characters are dressed in black and dark grays immediately creating a sense of foreboding...and it can’t be good...The somber cast moves in tandem some of the time, as pocket watches open and close, as they stare in one direction; severe deadpan delivery provides the emotional buttress to a constant feeling of suspicion and waiting, waiting for something to happen.” Full Review

80
Theater Pizzazz

"Leenya, a consummate actress, was born with talent far beyond the usual, excelling at everything – singing, playing piano and morphing into string instruments – violin, guitar, bass – all of which she showcases in this 90 minute presentation...She frequently takes on the role of her mother switching gears instantaneously, a tribute to her dramatic skills, as her complicated life emerges producing a release for a better, closer understanding between mother and daughter." Full Review

45
Theater Pizzazz

"We find ourselves in anticipation throughout Act I waiting for something more that might be the reason why we want to sit through Act II. Sadly, we are disappointed in hoping that the conversations will actually be more meaningful...Director Anais Koivisto elicits some good performances but probably a dramaturg might be in order to consolidate a too-long production that doesn’t give enough of a payoff." Full Review

55
Theater Pizzazz

"The play is filled with social and political significance that might have had more impact and make more of a statement in the current climate. However, it spends too much time on the intricacies of the family and too little time on the plight of the working class...Sullivan does a brilliant job directing, but even he can’t undo the long-winded repetitive conversations, and many times slow moving rhetoric...of a very poorly written play with some good and not so good performances." Full Review

45
Theater Pizzazz

"Kevin’s desire is to maintain his neighborhood as the conversations border on cliché and had he not mentioned he was gay, there even seems to be an apparent romantic spark between himself and Cara that goes nowhere. It’s unclear why Cara would even be swayed by the know-it-all, offensive Kevin who has no subtlety nor tries to disguise his sense of entitlement. The performances, ably directed by Doug Hughes, are top level, but the entire situation seems unrealistic." Full Review

95
Theater Pizzazz

"Something so extraordinary that one is awe struck watching and listening to what is currently gracing the stage at the Vineyard Theatre...A stunning 1 hour, 45 minute entre into a world of psychic realization that probes the inner mind and soul...The exquisite dramatic portrayals tell the story in balletic movements, reaching into contemporary dance, with complete devotion to detail...I cannot give enough praise to this inspired piece of theater." Full Review

70
Theater Pizzazz

“Written by Kraar, ‘Alternating Currents’ is rooted in community...researched...by creating theater for and about working people...The take away is both a positive and a negative...living in this utopian based grouping certainly creates a feeling of belonging, common goals and friendship. However, it has its inherent problems of divisiveness based on race and bias and the pressures of group expectations...The competent acting team furthers the contradictions raised in this environment.” Full Review

75
Theater Pizzazz

"This current production is a brainteaser. In a series of scenes, many issues of human interaction are addressed albeit even those awkward and very private ones that we'd never hope anyone might be privy to watch...From the emergence of these scenes, spiffily directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt, we peek into worlds of corruption, violence, frightening reality that touches all of our lives in a place that remains neutral. The writing is humor-laden." Full Review

45
Theater Pizzazz

"This Big Broadway Musical is missing the punch that many found delightful in the Disney movie...The constant light is the puppetry...brought to life by a delightful Hildreth as the snowman. The always remarkable Creighton is notable as the sinister character Weselton...Grandage has directed this play-it-safe production, keeping those magical gloves on but wows you with technology...Alas, 'Frozen' will leave you as the song in Act 2 - 'Colder by the Minute.'" Full Review

75
Theater Pizzazz

"This many times hilarious comedy moves in many directions...This production, lovingly and comically directed by Scott Ellis, verges on the edge of sitcom quality, one-liners heavily relied upon and most times brilliantly executed by the older sibling orphans...There are surprises aplenty, albeit you have to allow for many unrealistic situations during the 90 minutes, but you’ll leave the theater feeling you’ve witnessed a really worthwhile production." Full Review

70
Theater Pizzazz

"Playwright Jordan Harrison has quite an imagination in this quirky, humorous play with music...And we begin to wonder...so where is this all going?...Another commentary in creative guise. Can have you squirming in your seat but take it or leave it, you have to admire the delivery." Full Review

80
Theater Pizzazz

"A zany absurdist comedy that keeps repeating over and over again in varying scenarios that release the different personalities living beneath the surface...They are all over the edge in this madcap comedy to the nth degree, and it’s a little confusing until you get the pattern...It’s 80 spinning minutes of roller coaster, and you can’t help being taken with the twists and turns as new characterizations emerge from these four comedic pundits who meld so perfectly together in impeccable timing." Full Review

60
Theater Pizzazz

"The talk and banter doesn’t reveal anything new about women or aging but fortifies what’s been said on timeless occasions...However, there are abundant humorous lines to give it an easy conversational feeling and the audience some chuckles...There’s a lot of heart in Susan Miller’s writing, directed by Emily Mann, as the storyline picks up more emotion moving forward over the one hour, 40 minutes. But the theme is worn out and needs some new revelations." Full Review

75
Theater Pizzazz

"If you’re a fan of comedy, especially blue, with romance thrown in for a theme, then you’ll have some good laughs...Molnar has most of the punch lines and is a standout in this three person show...Directed by Jonathan Silverstein the play runs at a fast pace." Full Review

70
Theater Pizzazz

"Directed by Stephen Brackett, if you’re of a certain age you’ll most likely relate to the woes of youth as presented here in 'The Mad Ones.' Kerrigan and Lowdermilk surely have a way with words and lyrics and there are some genuine laugh out loud moments...The downside: the show attempts too strenuously to get its points across but it doesn’t always work as words crisscross and lines become blurred." Full Review

70
Theater Pizzazz

"Cho has written a relevant commentary on the new violence erupting in schools and colleges nationwide...These episodes contain lots of silence, more than pregnant pauses, that are off-putting and distracting which, in fact, director Neel Keller obviously didn’t count on...There is a predictability as the story moves along and also some surprises...A reminder of the on-going violence that plagues our society on a daily basis and the cost." Full Review

75
Theater Pizzazz

"The match is graceful and powerful with precision as simultaneous body motions...The play, like a tennis match, portrays lives moving back and forth in time sequences, giving glimpses into the relationships of the two couples...The men are physically adept and display great emotional fortitude in their suffering and desires...'The Last Match' is an interesting premise for a play but you’ll have an edge of enjoyment if it’s a sport in which you participate." Full Review

70
Theater Pizzazz

"Aaron Mark, the playwright and director, has quite a ghoulish imagination...It’s a constant output of free flow chatter...Unfortunately, with Alison’s unique speech pattern, she’s sometimes difficult to understand and the results sound like mumbling. Don’t get me wrong, Alison Fraser is a top notch actress as she tackles the several characters with subtle voice changes, all the while remaining in the chair...This is all very nightmare-ish and, as my show buddy described, it’s Hitchcock-ian!" Full Review

70
Theater Pizzazz

"It’s all very loud with primal screaming and distorted grumbling, sometimes difficult to understand the actual words, but easy enough to get the meaning of all the simulations...This is a high-energy production of fine actors. However, if you’re prone to closing your eyes in such circumstances as described, better not even bother attempting to be in the audience. Not for the faint of heart!" Full Review

80
Theater Pizzazz

"The word has a variety of meanings, but has never been presented with such unique verve as in the current production of 'Charm'...It addresses the LGBTQ community with a spin that gets immediate audience attention...A truly magnificent Sandra Caldwell...This is an important story to tell that will go on and is only just beginning." Full Review

35
Theater Pizzazz

"It would appear that both the character of the young child and Mr. Astorcott might be totally eliminated since their appearances are short lived, adding little value to the story. They might just as well be referenced for the minor benefit they provide. The play, directed by Christopher McElroen, doesn’t get off the ground, as it circles round and round seeking some real substance. ‘If Only,’ unfortunately, has several missed opportunities." Full Review

75
Theater Pizzazz

"An ode to the exquisite paintings but minimal insights into the life of Vincent van Gogh...The beauty of the van Gogh art is cleverly projected as backdrop...Wonderful highlights that accessorize the beauty of the music...I’m of the mind that the addition of dialogue between characters might enhance this production as would a shortened presentation...If you are a fan of classical music brilliantly played, then you’ll enjoy the uniqueness and creativity of how it is artfully shared." Full Review

85
Theater Pizzazz

"The cast is downright sensational!...Other than a script that might need some trimming to eliminate repetition on a theme, 'Network' will hold you in a vise of straight forward and blunt veracity, and a feeling of powerlessness...It’s always an enlightening time when something we’ve seen so many years ago on the big screen punches you square in the stomach as current, truthful and frightening." Full Review

85
Theater Pizzazz

"This is the underlying strength of the production: The extreme ability of the creator and well-trained handlers to actually elicit a sense of emotion through a puppet and with a message...Christiani Pitts is a highly energized spitfire with a soaring voice and the huge cast is remarkable...Maybe it’s just good to have an old iconic story unite with a more contemporary touch and as a reminder at a time when kindness, caring, and gentility should be at the forefront of everyone’s agenda." Full Review

85
Theater Pizzazz

“Gwon’s ‘Ordinary Days’ presents a mélange of mayhem, tears, truth and humor...Reminiscent of the boy meets girl, falls in love old tale but much more relatable in this 21st Century intelligent compelling musical...The story songs are filled with humor, passion, joy, hope, sadness and fury and readily understandable in this vignette styled production, smartly directed...The ensemble is outstanding, the message not new but a reminder and wake up call of what’s really important.” Full Review

85
Theater Pizzazz

“This is one wacky, fun filled absurd adventurous two-hander...With the clever use of a chalkboard designating scene locations; a piece of this n’ that...we get to meet many of the zany residents of Popcorn Falls. On some levels think ‘Noises Off’...Wackadoodle script...This twosome are a perfect pair of well seasoned actors who transform and move at lightening speed, assuming characters with a wink, accent, walk or speech pattern...Delightful fun." Full Review

70
Theater Pizzazz

"Once again, Edie Falco rules whether on stage, film or television as a force to be reckoned with. Even more challenging for an actor, since Polly Noonan is not fictional, Falco played her so vividly, it felt like she created her. Under Scott Ellis’ direction, this fine cast rises to the occasion. However, does Sharr White’s latest offering, which can be trying at times in its wordiness, offer any new insights or is it strictly meant to be a slice of time that reminds us that very little chan... Full Review

90
Theater Pizzazz

“Felder assumes the character of Berlin in this absorbing...musical one man show...Felder interpolates every nuance, and mannerism in song and style of the great Berlin, drawing his audience into the fold...Each hit song presented another opportunity for the brilliant Felder to sing, play and portray, relating more emotional storyline...A show for anyone who loves the Great American Songbook, cleverly and smartly constructed by the talented Felder." Full Review

60
Theater Pizzazz

"Gianmarco says he’s a triple threat and, in this case, he does cover the gamut from comic to actor to storyteller, and is a good stand up comic...Yes, some silly, funny stuff going on that will get a response from the younger folks in the audience. Beyond that, this is a sad commentary on the frightened now generation, their lack of commitment to relationships and romantic involvement...Jen Wineman directs this rather confusing 90 minute commentary." Full Review

85
Theater Pizzazz

"All too funny, poignant, and earthy...Each of the characters are rich and ripe as they eagerly and easily throw themselves out into the unknown, unafraid and ready for battle, insults flying...This is wacky-ville like you’ve never seen it as director Phylicia Rashad takes the reins and willingly lets go allowing her cast to fly untethered...Be prepared for the unexpected and enjoy the ride! Guirgis is a genius when it comes to dark irreverent comedy." Full Review

85
Theater Pizzazz

"Morisseau has written finely layered themes of conflicts and personalities in 'Paradise Blue'....Watching Nicholson is akin to reminiscences of a young Denzel Washington filled with powerful, aching moments of pain. It’s Santiago-Hudson’s strong directorial hand that turns this cast into a well-oiled remarkable machine that creates its own buzz, resulting in real and truthful performances, aided by Ramos’ costumes and Rampton’s jaz-infused music.” Full Review

90
Theater Pizzazz

"Thurber has written a very succinct play, filled with lots of humor-laden flowing dialogue that grabs your attention. And it is Gay's direction that makes these remarkable characters come to life. And they are first rate remarkable! But especially outstanding are Castano and Blankson-Wood who turn in solid, riveting and heart-rending performances." Full Review

80
Theater Pizzazz

"The humorous, mocking 'One Eyed Arab' – with two eyes, (a lively Graham Stevens) sets the opening time and place in mythical Persia, as the narrative smoothly shifts as explained in the program...There are shattering musical vibrations that literally shake the theater...The cast members are a talented bunch of triple threats speedily directed by Erin Ortman." Full Review

75
Theater Pizzazz

"There are numerous comic portrayals and one liners that tickle the funny bone...Surprises all around, lots of wacky conversations as the characters keep popping in and out...And there’s an adorable bed scene – the least expected! It’s amazing how much can happen in one evening! It’s all tongue in cheek, and even mobsters have a heart, especially on Christmas Eve." Full Review

75
Theater Pizzazz

"A prime example of the frustrations, complications and realities of dealing with mental illness. But find humor Rabe does with an all-star cast...The takeaway, it takes a lot to be brave, especially those under mental siege, to fight the battles, to seek wisdom, help and climb the ladder of survival." Full Review

85
Theater Pizzazz

"Exciting and highly intense intellectual drama...JC Lee weaves an intricate web that proves to provoke and ponder the big questions raised in this revealing and mesmerizing play. Remarkable Director Liesl Tommy moves the four characters forward and keeps the audience riveted...I will note that there is a good deal of repetition that would seem to warrant cuts in the script." Full Review

85
Theater Pizzazz

"Resounding with spirit and vitality...This is an extraordinary journey for Allan Harris having presented this at NYMF back in 2009 and now, after many rewrites and a new cast, brings this story of guts and blood and a Black West to new heights with a mix of jazz, blues, country, and R & B tunes...From my perspective, it’s a story that needs telling and perhaps this concert will come to fruition in a fully staged production sooner than later." Full Review

90
Theater Pizzazz

for a previous production “Crudup can mug with the best of them in the different characters he assumes in this one-man show so cleverly written by Cale. It’s not the distinctive voicing of females or males, but the physical and emotional subtlety he swiftly assumes as he morphs into each...All unfolds through the vivid performance skills of an amazing Crudup relating this outrageous story that is both funny and sexually charged...This is a dazzling piece of writing directed by the exceptional hand of Silverman.” Full Review

90
Theater Pizzazz

for a previous production “There is another very different 'Mean Girls' getting ready to launch on Broadway shortly that Tina Fey is working on. But, believe me, nothing could rival the 'African Mean Girls Play'...Not to be missed. Bioh is to be congratulated on her ability to create a very humorous script bringing topical/important issues to light, together with Taichman on her always splendid creativity in directing this oh, so talented cast.” Full Review

90
Theater Pizzazz

“The transfer of ‘The Band’s Visit’ hasn’t tarnished the sheer brilliance and joy of Yazbek and Moses’ dazzling, humorous rendering of Eran Kolirin’s 2007 Israeli film of the same name. In fact, it has heightened the real humanity that resounds making one actually believe that it is music that could be the catalyst to solving the world’s problems!...Cromer sensitively directs this exceptional cast with subtlety, finesse, and a sense of humor.” Full Review

65
Theater Pizzazz

“It’s a battle of the sexes in Shanley’s latest comedy...What makes it most intriguing is the line up of star power. It’s silly, wacky but you gotta laugh even if you don’t want to! This is really far reaching for the likes of Shanley...There’s nothing really going on in this plot, making ‘The Portuguese Kid’ just right for television. But it’s worth a try because the audience, on the whole, responds to a lot of the silliness and laughs out loud. Just what we need!” Full Review

85
Theater Pizzazz

"Stephen Adly Guirgis, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, writes with guts and blood and not for the faint of heart...The play is awash with minor and major monologues like pop ups that arise in empty spaces with it’s own humor and one-liners and a symphony of themes...The play is powerful, the actors riveting, as Mark Brokaw drives the production with insightfulness." Full Review

60
Theater Pizzazz

"Trying to bring real substance to Strayed’s popular book on stage creates its own problems. The adaptation by a genuinely fine storyteller, Vardalos, who plays the role of Strayed/Sugar, is enticing...After 85 minutes of hearing 'Dear Sugar'–utilizing the same format, over and over–it begins to get tedious...I did come away feeling that 'Tiny Beautiful Things' is an offering of hope...I also came away with the feeling of how an audience can be manipulated." Full Review

75
Theater Pizzazz

“Although the theme is heavy, the bickering produces a lot of earthy humor and laughs…To tell more of this tale would be to give away too much...Suffice it to say, it’s complicated and you’ll be somewhat surprised. The story revolves around caring, a debt owed and paid, and the cost of it all. I must admit it’s a really tall tale of circumstances thrown together and hard to believe, but it’s a winning cast and makes its point. And you have to admire McCormick’s reaching imagination.” Full Review

75
Theater Pizzazz

"The dialogue quick, clever and revealing, touching on religion, bureaucracy, politics and the all too familiar waiting for someone to die. Expect many a chuckle...It takes a while for this play to get going, but once it does, it fulfills many emotions in oh so tender moments of love and honesty, addressing our mutual humanity. The cast is lovable and loving." Full Review

70
Theater Pizzazz

"If you’re expecting deep-rooted insights into the extraordinary producer-director Harold Prince’s life story, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if you want to relive the musical memories of some of the hits and flops of his seven decades in theater, with a cast that will many times blow the roof off, you’ve come to the right place...Two and half hours that fly by...There are real showstoppers that include Yazbeck as Buddy...But my hat is off to Skinner who takes your breath away as Joanne." Full Review

60
Theater Pizzazz

"An intense and powerful play that is thought-provoking, but nothing new...The play doesn’t always work, albeit director Lileana Blain-Cruz does her utmost to flesh out the powerful portrayals...The cast is compelling but the choice of Namir Smallwood (an intensely brilliant actor) appears miscast as he is too old for the role of a teenager." Full Review