“The Dead Hand of the Past”: I Review “Bad Jews”

at Studio Theatre: Jaroslav Pelikan declared, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” But it can be hard to tell which one you’re actually doing.“Bad Jews,” at the Studio Theatre through December 28, takes place over a few hours in one tiny (but pricey) New York apartment. Cousins Daphna, Jonah, and Liam are reunited on the night after their grandfather’s funeral. (So big, even Abe Foxman was there!) Liam has also brought an outsider: the … [Read more...]

“Carrie White Will Never Die”: I review the Carrie musical

at AmCon: Carrie is the only book I ever put down because I knew I was too young for it. It was the summer between fourth and fifth grade and I was staying with cousins, taking the opportunity to raid their bookshelves. I flipped idly through the book’s opening, got to the shower scene (“Plug it up! Plug it up!”), and–for once in my life–realized I was in over my head. The combination of nudity, menstruation, and sadism, all happening to kids just a few years older than I was, overwhelmed me. I’ … [Read more...]

Who Are You and What Do You Want?: I watch a play

at the Studio Theater, Cock, playing through June 22. It's by Mike Bartlett, the guy who did Contractions, and like Contractions it's a high-concept play with few characters and a lot of emotional intensity.The high concept is that John, having broken up with his long-term boyfriend for no real reason except his own itchy ambivalence, meets a woman and falls for her hard. But then the boyfriend takes him back, and suddenly he has to choose--and he can't, for almost two hours, he just can't … [Read more...]

Too Much Harmony: “Water by the Spoonful,” A Play About Friendship, Dissonance, and Humiliating Identity

Last night I saw Quiara Alegria Hudes's Pulitzer-winning Water by the Spoonful at Studio Theatre. It uses dissonant jazz as a metaphor for the disjunctions and collisions in our own lives, asking whether these discordant notes will ever resolve into harmony. The show tells two parallel stories: A young vet with PTSD fights with his cousin about how to mourn his dying adoptive mother, and members of an online support group for "crackheads" (their term, which is important, see below) strive to … [Read more...]

“Dyscommunication”: I review “Tribes” at the Studio Theatre

for AmCon: If you couldn’t understand what your family was saying, would you understand them better or worse?Nina Raines’s ”Tribes” opens with four Britons hurling abuse at each other around the kitchen table. I think it’s supposed to be funny, but it’s mostly just crass and painful: Mom, Dad, brother and sister describing one another’s passions, hopes, beliefs, and sex lives in the most contemptuous terms possible. The fifth member of the family is deaf and yeah, you do feel that perhaps he … [Read more...]

I review “4000 Miles” and ask a question about portrayals of advice-giving

at AmCon. … [Read more...]

To Practice These Principles in All Our Affairs

The strengths of the new play at the Studio Theatre aren't where the playwright seems to think they are.The play's boundary-pushing profanity (I'm using circumlocutions to keep from saying the title, which the local alt-weeklies have been studiously printing in an attempt to prove we're not provincial) is probably supposed to be raw and streetwise but comes across as mannered and stagey.And the play appears to be about the complexity of character. "Funny how a person can be more than one … [Read more...]


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