Stanford Friedman

About:  Stanford Friedman is a Drama Desk member and critic with "The Front Row Center," New York Theatre Guide and OffOffOnline.
Reviews (137)
Three Wise Guys
Midtown W
Off Off Online

"An uneven production...With the puppets from internationally known puppeteer Andy Gaukel, and vivid screen projections from established designer Dan Scully offering exciting visuals, Evans cannot seem to get his actors to keep pace or to fully own the inherent comedy of Runyon's stilted language. The result is a weak finish." Full Review

Good for Otto
Midtown W
Front Row Center

"There are numerous sparkling performances to be found here, but unfortunately they often get lost in a work that is fractured, overly long, and saddled with more than a few bouts of navel-gazing...Elliott and his team throw in a variety of odd tricks to punctuate the action...Outbreaks of song, a highly random use of snow, and seating a couple dozen audience members on stage...Still and all, a cluttered Rabe play is better than no Rabe play." Full Review

Front Row Center

"Raunch never goes out of style and this work is as hilariously and unapologetically dirty as can be...Christianity takes a licking before a surprisingly effective spiritual redemption at the end of the night...There is no shortage of talent...More vocal brilliance per square foot than any other room in the city...Low humor elevated to high art...A true opera...But, it's redneck opera...Paying members of the audience can’t help but to get drawn in, emotionally and physically." Full Review

Front Row Center

"Despite a strong opening scene that sets up a promising premise, we soon lose two of the lead characters, the supporting characters lose credibility and the playwright loses her focus. A potentially fascinating story about two couples ruining each other's lives while 8000 miles apart becomes a convoluted who-lives-and-who-dies saga...Pakistan scenes are well paced, but most of the Vegas action feels labored." Full Review

Front Row Center

"Bearing her scars, figuratively and literally, Ensler explores how the disease, and its poisonous treatments, violated her body...Ensler entwines these observations with the stories she heard in her trips to the Democratic Republic of Congo...So compelling is this cancer-Congo-nature triangle, the show sinks a little whenever Ensler steps outside of it. She cannot help but throw some political barbs, but her tribulations make even Trump seem inconsequential." Full Review

The Undertaking
Midtown E
Off Off Online

"Two performers, portraying multiple characters, enact real-life interviews centered on the act of dying...All the while, the production comments upon itself and divulges its own techniques. Death may be the subject of this play, but its theme is creation...That the interviewer would become his own subject was inevitable from the moment Lydia began drawing him in, but it also speaks to the fact that his other subjects are intriguing at first, then lose their luster." Full Review

Front Row Center

“Employing a blend of fact and fiction, song and story, Ms. Hartstone transports us into a past that is nearly as unsettling as the present...Evie comes across as a powerful chronicler of the era, but not as a heroine that we are particularly rooting for...Additionally, Evie’s suicidal tendencies feel less than fully earned...Still, Ms. Hartstone’s gutsy and gusto-y performance mostly compensates for the script’s flaws.” Full Review

Actually
Midtown W
Front Row Center

“An engaging think piece that wonders if opposites attract or if opposites attack...Ziegler has her characters presenting their cases directly to the audience, keeping interaction between the two at a minimum...What makes the play tick is that we are never given any conclusive answers. And because of that, ‘Actually’ is a story about overt sexual assault only on the surface. It is more concerned with what shaped Tom and Amber’s perceptions...The production is perfectly paced.” Full Review

Red Roses, Green Gold
West Village
Front Row Center

“’Red Roses Green Gold’ has all the beauty marks and all the scars of a jukebox musical. There are wonderful songs...The music is admirably performed, not by a tribute band, but by a diverse ensemble of eight actor/musicians (five men and three women) who bring their own interpretations to the material...And a storyline so poorly conceived and executed that it almost ruins the fun...Fortunately, these folks can sing and strum a mean streak.” Full Review

The Box Show
Gramercy
Front Row Center

"With no connective tissue to speak of, the numerous sketches that have Salerno portraying women, men, children, sex organs and various inanimate objects work best when they are either short or silly or wordless. She is a gifted physical comedian...As a playwright, Salerno shows a flare for the zany...However, when the writing tries to go deep or go long, it fumbles...There are also some pacing issues that director Sash Bischoff has yet to solve." Full Review

Mary Jane
East Village
Front Row Center

"A flawless production…In one of the best performances of the new season thus far, Ms. Coon tries to maintain a facade of ease over an almost unbearable inner tension, tirelessly coping with her fate and hoping against hope...Each scene flows seamlessly into the next with a slow and even pacing that captures the audience. You know you are doing something right when even the smallest of laugh lines results in tension-releasing guffaws…The supporting cast, all in dual roles, also shine.” Full Review

Front Row Center

"A handful of brief sketches intertwined with nifty bits of prestidigitation...Unfortunately, for the most part, it is our interest that disappears...The best piece of the night...is a monologue by an ostensibly religious man...Other sketches have interesting premises but either miss out on the humor, go nowhere or fail to deliver a measurable punch...Mr. Ridd...seems quite out of place here, which is possibly the point. But when he manages to steal the show, it’s worrisome." Full Review

Curvy Widow
Midtown W
Front Row Center

"The production sinks or swims on the capabilities of the actor portraying Bobby. Fortunately that actor is the clear-voiced powerhouse Nancy Opel...Brody’s score is uncomplicated but Opel finds the tenderness in ballads...However, there are some corny and/or tacky moments that even Opel cannot mug her way out of...Goldman, in writing about herself, offers a fully fleshed-out Bobby...The supporting characters could only be so lucky; little writerly attention has been paid to them at all." Full Review

Front Row Center

"If Act One is emotionally pent up, Act Two breaks out beyond all expectation...Nine women on stage equates to sweet harmonies aplenty...There is some work to be done. Mozelle needs a first-act number of her own, and the authors need to find a way to bring consequence to the few dark moments that shadow the women. But the first half of the second act arrives fully formed with four consecutive killer numbers...It’s a production that deserves a longer run." Full Review

Underground
Midtown E
Front Row Center

"It is a little hard to care about our would-be lovebirds...They smoke, they drink, they flirt awkwardly and the relationship goes nowhere fast, literally, as most of the inaction takes place on a stalled subway train...That said, both Mr. Jinks and Ms. Sanders give solid, believable performances. There is a definite chemistry between them, they are just denied the chance to combust." Full Review

Front Row Center

“Two-thirds of the way through 'Can You Forgive Her,' the excellent character actor Frank Wood turns up as David, a slightly sociopathic plastic surgeon. If only his character had been around earlier to perform an emergency nip and tuck on the scene that precedes his entrance, this would have been a breezy 75 minutes of offbeat fun. But, a 20-minute expository back and forth between its two leads bogs down the proceedings…The actors all find their moments of subtlety.” Full Review

Daniel's Husband
Midtown W
Front Row Center

for a previous production “There is a major spoiler, which I’ll do my best to circumvent, that comes halfway into the evening and which transforms this light dramedy into a bleak and angry soap opera cum public service announcement. Still, the production is impeccably acted and perfectly paced, so one cannot help but be drawn into the dark action…Whatever message the playwright was hoping to bring to the surface gets muddied by the results of these characters’ actions, or the lack thereof.” Full Review

Front Row Center

"It’s a play that every O’Neill fan should see, and one could do worse than choosing The Irish Rep’s current production that offers plenty of compelling visuals, and a mostly powerful performance by its lead...Jones is a challenging role for any actor and Abili does bring the heat and the intensity if not an extreme emotional range...If he is lacking chemistry at the opening, he has found the proper equation by his final scene." Full Review

Dear World
Midtown E
Front Row Center

“A mediocre score and a story line that devolves into parable…We must forgive Ms. Daly her French accent that waivers across international borders…There is no other actor as good at displaying wordless despair, and her quiet moments of remembering her old love are touching…Ms. Fraser is hilarious as the elderly and quite dizzy Constance…Ms. Henningsen gets a ballad that comes out of nowhere, and we are all the better for it...Her lovely voice elevates the entire production." Full Review

Front Row Center

"With director Tony Speciale moving things along at a fast clip, there is never a dull moment. But, while there is humor, there is disappointingly little pathos to be found. In a play about moving out and moving on, few of the characters are very moving at all...More tell than show, Dottie talks often about forgetting, but we rarely see her forget. Indeed, she is so specific and at ease that the moral seems to be that Alzheimer’s ain’t all that bad for the afflicted." Full Review

Front Row Center

"A winningly performed but losing-ly scripted musical…Murders are forgotten about and accusations pivot for no apparent reason...This is a production that attempts to serve many masters, and the outcome is more jarring than it is synchronistic…Fortunately, the cast shines, with Mr. Cordero being the brightest of the stars." Full Review

Front Row Center

"It asks the musical question, can four powerhouse actors with Broadway-caliber voices rise above their one-dimensional characters and just mildly funny book to bring home a satisfying production? Yes, they manage to deliver the goods, but the goods are less than great...Ms. Dacal and Ms. Faure both ignite the stage with their showcase numbers…Ms. Guinn’s Dottie is a more problematic and hard-to-believe character...Still, she manages to shine in her Act II paean to motherhood." Full Review

Front Row Center

"There is a story line to follow, but it is clear from the start that it exists only to serve as a launching pad for the beautiful songs of Irving Berlin, and to pause when a big dance number is ready to stop the show...A short stay at 'Holiday Inn' provides a welcome getaway...Where else can 'Shaking the Blues Away' transform into a fantastic chorus number featuring tap dancers with jump ropes?...Director Gordon Greenberg has the show running like a well-oiled machine." Full Review

A Day by the Sea
Midtown W
Front Row Center

"Hunter’s quietly passionate drama…Under the taut direction of Austin Pendleton, a uniformly strong ensemble reveals the devastatingly calm results of wrong choices and world war…The play is three acts in three hours, with each act having its own purpose and tone...Pendleton transforms the goings-on into a modern era episode of 'Downton Abbey'...Elfer and Firth are perfectly paired with his Julian casting a pensive Hugh Grant charm and her damaged Frances done with playing games." Full Review

Front Row Center

"FringeNYC at its purest, which is to say that it’s a holy mess...The show could still use some work. Director Laura Hooper has Arnold dashing all over the place, in and out of the lighting, off stage and back, haphazardly…Arnold’s persona wavers between stand-up comic with a forced delivery, and deeply personal confessor. There is too much weight for her to get off of her chest in a mere basement show at a Fringe Festival. She seemed close to tears at the end, and not in a good way." Full Review

Later Life
Midtown W
Front Row Center

"Charmingly romantic revival...It is a mix of funny and poignant tales that neatly sum up the state of educated Caucasian New Englanders of the 1990s...Under the gentle direction of Jonathan Silverstein, the play of course depends on the sparks and timing between Lau and Garrick. Both are up to the challenge with Lau letting Austin’s emotions ever so slowly simmer while Garrick reveals an inner beauty to Ruth’s wildness that any man would find hard to resist." Full Review

Is God Is
Soho/Tribeca
Off Off Online

"Harris’s storyline is straightforward, but her influences and cultural shout-outs are full of curves, swerving from Greek tragedy to spaghetti Westerns to hip hop, and back again...Meanwhile, secret meanings and allusions ricochet across broken homes, amid suburban malaise, matriarchal power plays, and desperate authority figures...A pull-apart set that is as strange and violent as the characters themselves." Full Review

Kings
East Village
Front Row Center

'Burgess' captivating new play is a deep dig into the financial interests and power grabs of DC's elected officials...Money and influence fuel the fires and in this tightly edited script that keenly pulls focus back and forth between the candidates and their underlings, and takes just the right leaps in time between scenes, we survey the burnout without witnessing the actual arson...A wicked premise...Sadly, the physical staging of the production is a mess." Full Review

[PORTO]
Upper W Side
Front Row Center

"More a lab experiment than a stage play...The entire night walks a fine line between pretentious and high satire...Benson's writing is most accessible when she's making fun of millennials and their penchant for 'serious' bars and anything pickled...As directed by Evans, the cast all inhabit their characters earnestly. Chukwu stands out for creating a sympathetic Raphael, while the others, in a work that is funny-strange instead of funny-ha-ha, tug more on the brain than on the heart." Full Review

A Kind Shot
Midtown W
Off Off Online

"Though the dialogue could stand some tightening, and a director could help Mateer better realize the moments that call out for a pause, her saga, her stage presence and her intimate style of delivery bring home a win...Mateer starts off slowly...But as her pace quickens, there is little time to absorb just how disturbing some of her experiences were...Mateer's physicality is a great asset to her storytelling, especially in the strong final moments when she fully extends her body." Full Review

Front Row Center

“Lithgow takes on a variety of literary characters and takes time out to reveal himself...A relaxing, and tame, two hours. Lithgow is always colorful, but here he is coloring well within the lines...‘The Haircut’ is overly theatrical...Lithgow’s pantomime...overwhelms the storytelling...Lardner’s gritty story falls flat. ‘Uncle Fred Flits By’, on the other hand, is a totally enjoyable piece of escapism. Lithgow, transforms into ten different characters, including a young girl and a parrot." Full Review

Downtown Race Riot
Midtown W
Front Row Center

“Not only set in 1976, much of this new play by Rosenfeld feels like it was written in that era as well. It flows along with a distinct Landord Wilson vibe...The first hour is a captivating slow burn, then it goes a little off the rails, then it blows up in your face...There are a lot of balls in the air here and the always fine director, Elliott, juggles them skillfully...In lieu of a gratifying climax...we are left with an unsatisfying, wordless fade to black.” Full Review

Billy and the Killers
Soho/Tribeca
Front Row Center

"A lackluster and mopey affair...This production is guilty of several crimes. These include harboring an uninteresting minor, operating a fog machine with intent to choke, lyric writing without a poetic license, and, most egregiously, failure to rock when given the right of way...All the cast is under-served by the score. Stopschinski’s music had the audience sitting still for 100 minutes while Shankman’s lyrics are a downward spiral of end rhymes." Full Review

The Last Match
Midtown W
Front Row Center

“We are told early on that, 'in those kinds of matches, there is tension all the way through.' If this production, though well acted and visually compelling, does not fully live up to that promise, it does at least serve up a volley of poignant moments amid funny acts of courtship...The play’s more serious challenge is the presentational style in which it is written...Tensions deflate...Issues are undercut...The games of the heart these people play deserve a richer backdrop.” Full Review

A Soldier's Play
East Village
Front Row Center

for a previous production "An uneven revival...The mood of this production is more melancholy and ghostly than urgent and vigorous…Tucker turns in a fine performance as the troubled Waters…Reuben has a handful of nice, subtle moments as Davenport, but saddled with the job of endless questioning and busy with way too much scribbling in his notebook, we rarely feel for him…Director Weldon finds the right theatricality...The barely there set is evidence of a nonprofit theater company in need of donations.” Full Review

Front Row Center

"Ms. Parks and her director, Sarah Benson, have drawn on a vast array of influences to create this captivating revival...Ms. Bioh stops the show cold when she transforms into Hester’s self-absorbed and wickedly perverse welfare lady...Only the usually great Frank Wood, who normally excels at neurotic villainy, has yet to find the proper vibe...Ms. Sengbloh’s finely measured performance reaches just the right bloody crescendo." Full Review

Front Row Center

"Though the plays span several different working classes, from wealthy vacationers to hardscrabble laborers, there are consistencies to be found...In 'Strange Birth,' Costigan, as Mrs. Stims, shines the brightest...'In the Cellar of My Friend' is the weakest of the batch...A dark and meaty tragedy, 'The King of Spain’s Daughter,' closes out the night...Redmond, a powerhouse throughout the night, brings a palpable sense of danger to this role." Full Review

Front Row Center

“Romance driven by geopolitics makes for a risky venture and, despite solid performances throughout, the creators never quite find a proper balance…The book has other troubles with its humorous moments more cute than funny, and dialog that is less natural than it is expositional…Ms. Baldwin gets the lion’s share of the numbers and handles them with ease, though they would have had much more impact if we had better insight into why she is so dedicated to her dull man.” Full Review

Pipeline
Upper W Side
Front Row Center

“The arena-style seating provides the perfect vantage point for the grudge matches, gut punches and emotional jabs of Dominique Morisseau’s poignant ‘Pipeline’…The casting of Mr. Smallwood as Omari is a risk that mostly pays off. He brings sensitivity and intensity to each of his scenes, and is no less than stunning in that climactic confrontation with Xavier. But, being in his mid-30s, there was not one moment where I actually believed he was a high school student.” Full Review

Animal
Chelsea
Front Row Center

"Lizzimore is betting that the audience will buy in to 90 minutes of analysis and hallucination before learning what has gotten Rachel here in the first place. And thanks to a talented cast, crisp direction by Upchurch and some poetic touches by the playwright, the gambit mostly pays off. Still, it is hard not to feel a little cheated by the play’s outcome. The reason for Rachel’s trauma, which I will not give away, is so utterly unpredictable it diffuses the angst that precedes its discovery." Full Review

Baghdaddy
Midtown W
Front Row Center

“A great musical trapped inside of a good musical…The production is sometimes at battle with itself. At its best, it is a touching look at how small, human flaws can escalate toward catastrophe. At its worst, it is sketch comedy, albeit with free donuts and coffee for the audience…Trimming the title was a good idea. Decluttering some of the on-stage action would have been an even better one.” Full Review

Sweat
Midtown W
Front Row Center

“Few great American plays take place in a bar. Nottage’s heart-wrenching 'Sweat' may well be the best one since O’Neill’s 'The Iceman Cometh'...As tightly operating an ensemble as you are ever likely to see on Broadway…Whoriskey directs with a sure hand, with minor flourishes...and major accomplishments like keeping the pacing of inevitable doom at a compelling slow bleed. This, along with Beatty’s perfectly wrought set featuring functioning beer taps, leave us thirsting for more.” Full Review

Crackskull Row
Chelsea
Front Row Center

“Director Kira Simring and her talented cast manage the nifty trick of creating a path of destruction that is both in and out of time…The double casting adds to the mind warp…Ms. Molloy writes with a poetic sensibility, a fondness for puns and an ear for metaphor…Ghosts, when they arrive, tend to show up barefoot (and sometimes, wondrously, from out of the fireplace).” Full Review

Sunset Boulevard
Midtown W
Front Row Center

"Glenn Close is this generation’s Shirley Jones...She has mastered the art of bringing controlled madness to her method. Of all the big names attached to this production, the most important is Billy Wilder. The 1950 film which he co-wrote and directed is so chock full of bullet-proof source material, it is impossible not to be entertained by any decent adaptation...Mr. Johanson is fabulous as Max, with his deep voice miraculously ranging into falsetto territory." Full Review

In Transit
Midtown W
Front Row Center

"This is a production which feels very much like a singing sitcom that could fit nicely in the FOX Tuesday evening lineup. The voices are pleasant, the characters and their situations are highly familiar without being totally cliché, nothing overly depressing happens and the Manhattan subway system looks like it was shot in Toronto...'In Transit' markets itself as Broadway’s first a cappella musical, and it’s a successful gimmick thanks to the creative team." Full Review

Ride the Cyclone
West Village
Front Row Center

"The Canadian writing team of Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond have no experience to speak of in creating staged musicals and that is fairly evident even without reading the Playbill. Karnak spends an inordinate amount of time just narrating backstory to the audience...The duo, however, are quite good at serving up catchy, rock-tinged melodies...The show works best when looked at as a musical revue with wild songs where nothing necessarily needs to connect logically." Full Review

Love, Love, Love
Midtown W
Front Row Center

"The entire ensemble turns in strong performances...The leaps in time and setting are visually delightful. The compromise, however, is that the transformations require a 10-minute intermission between each short act. This effectively kills any pacing that director Michael Mayer was hoping to establish. The experience is more like binge watching three episodes of a BBC comedy, than viewing a cohesive piece of theater." Full Review

Stuffed
Midtown W
Front Row Center

for a previous production "This is Lampanelli’s premiere as a playwright, and there are some signs of first-play syndrome. The characters speak mostly to or at the audience, rather than establishing meaningful dialogue among themselves. And, beyond their weight issues and troubled histories, they are not, pardon the pun, especially well rounded...But, to her credit, Lampanelli writes what she knows and has crafted an impressive structure throughout all of the monologues." Full Review

Cabtivist (FringeNYC)
Soho/Tribeca
Front Row Center

"If the goal of theater is to entertain and educate an audience, then McDonagh has undeniably fulfilled his duty. This is not so much a monologue in the spirit of, say, Spalding Gray, as it is a night at the pub sitting next to a good storyteller, sans the pub. A little more emotional depth, a little more structure in the script and a little more artistry in the performance could deliver 'Cabtivist' to greatness. But for now, McDonagh gets plenty of mileage from his well-polished gift of gab." Full Review

Front Row Center

for a previous production "There is the potential for poignancy here, and moments when Adams almost manages the keen trick of having the audience see themselves in the people he worked for, but the parade of wacky characters tends to march off with the focus. Adams’ stage presence is not quite as glowing as his floors…He sometimes struggled to remember his lines which, if it’s your own life story you’re telling, is especially distracting." Full Review