This Is Our Youth
Big stars don't always mean big rewards when it comes to Broadway. But Michael Cera is ideally cast as a slacker rich kid thrown out of the house by his dad, and Kieran Culkin is superb as the drug-dealing friend he shacks up with, in this revival of Kenneth Lonergan's off-Broadway comedy from the 1990s. Only Tavi Gevinson, as the girl in the picture, falls down on the job, but she doesn't too badly mar Anna D. Shapiro's excellent production.
John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey
And now for something completely cabaret: Pizzarelli, a slick jazz guitarist who croons with a light, nasally tenor, and Molaskey, whose warm, quavery vocals can bring out the emotional depths of a nursery rhyme, returned to New York City's Carlyle Hotel with a new show, heavily weighted with Sondheim but sprinkled with everything from Irving Berlin to Paul McCartney. The songs are often paired in surprising combinations and embellished with the couple's witty but never forced repartee. Sophisticated, jazzy and engaging, the Astaire-Rodgers of the cabaret world are at the top of their game.
The Open House
Acclaimed downtown playwright Will Eno made his Broadway debut last spring with The Realistic Joneses, but the enigmatic work fell flat with critics and theatergoers. A better introduction to Eno's unique theatrical voice came a few weeks earlier off-Broadway, with the premiere of this bitterly dark comedy about a dysfunctional family that literally disappears in front of our eyes. Eno's jokey, sardonic, willfully misdirected dialogue is his great original contribution, and this time he weaves it into an allegory of family disconnection that resonates.
In a bad year for musicals, the over-the-hill Philadelphia club fighter at least managed to punch above his weight. This musical version of Sylvester Stallone's famous movie pleased few critics, and lasted only a few months on Broadway. But it had a lot going for it: a tuneful score by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, a book (by Tom Meehan) that transferred the inspirational story to the stage with skill and heart, and a flamboyantly choreographed title bout that left Broadway audiences happily exhausted.
The Cripple of Inishmaan
When Martin McDonagh's play made its first appearance in New York (at the Public Theatre in 1998), it seemed a lesser achievement than his startling debut work, The Beauty Queen of Leenane. But last spring's Broadway revival, directed by Michael Grandage, proved it to be one of McDonagh's best. Daniel Radcliffe — moving further away from Harry Potter with every fine stage performance — was totally absorbed, and absorbing, in the title role of Billy, the town cripple who becomes an unlikely celebrity when a Hollywood film crew comes calling.
Arrivals and Departures
Alan Ayckbourn's latest work — which had its world premiere at New York's 59E59 Theater last summer — is another demonstration of the British master's knack for pushing stage boundaries while probing the sad drama of ordinary lives. We're in an airport, where an anti-terrorism unit is preparing an operation to nab an arriving terror suspect. Each of the two acts replays the same events from a different perspective: first, that of a female Army sergeant assigned to the detail, and then of the witness she's there to protect, an oblivious traffic warden from the provinces. Ayckbourn's own direction, as usual, never pushes for laughs or tears, but earns them both.
The sensational 1920s murder trial of Ruth Snyder — sent to the electric chair for murdering her husband — was the inspiration for Sophie Treadwell's seldom-revived 1928 play. Rather than a conventional docudrama, however, Treadwell turned the tabloid tale into a grim expressionistic nightmare — with nameless characters, robotic dialogue and a atmosphere of gathering doom. Last winter's Broadway revival, from British director Lindsay Turner, was a bracing reminder of the days when avant-garde artists and leftwing politics combined to create potent theater.
Sticks and Bones
The middle play of David Rabe's great Vietnam trilogy (in between The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel and Streamers), this surrealistic black comedy about a blinded, mind-blasted Vietnam veteran who returns home to his clueless family, could easily be dismissed as dated — wedded, as it is, to the antiwar passions of the Vietnam era. But Scott Elliott's searing off-Broadway revival brings out all its power and experimental boldness. Bill Pullman and Holly Hunter are standouts as the parents — named, not too subtly, Ozzie and Harriet — in a production that makes the best case possible for Rabe's enduring importance.
Father Comes Home From the Wars
At a southern plantation in the early days of the Civil War, a slave decides to follow his master into the Confederate army. In her new play — part of a projected cycle — the always adventurous Suzan-Lori Parks (The America Play, Topdog/Underdog) tackles a familiar historical subject but doesn't settle for easy moralizing or predictable melodrama. (Leave that to Hollywood, and 12 Years a Slave.) Instead, she creates a richly textured mix of Brechtian allegory and Homeric epic, finding new meaning in an essential American tragedy.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
An autistic teen-ager tries to find out who killed the neighborhood dog. Simon Stephens' extraordinary play (based on Mark Haddon's bestselling novel) jumps off from that simple premise to create a thought-provoking and theatrically dazzling excursion into uncharted territory — the inside of a boy's disordered but amazingly resourceful mind. Marianne Elliott's eye-popping production, imported from London but filled with mostly American (and mostly terrific) actors, is part mystery, part family drama, part young-adult adventure tale — and altogether mind-blowing on the stage.