Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Look at the Plays That Opened on Broadway in 2011

Overall, Broadway plays were better than musicals this calendar year. Performing a quick IBDB search, the following 23 plays opened on Broadway between January 1st and today.

I was bored watching this Tom Stoppard play and am bored now having to write a few words about this play. With that said, check out critic reviews of Arcadia here.

Rightfully, Rajiv Joseph’s relevant and well-done Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was cited as most underrated on New York Magazine’s 2011 Best of Theater list. Check out my stage door post here and critic reviews of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo here.

Broadway audiences were thankful when Nina Arianda claimed the Billie Dawn baton from Judy Holliday in this year’s revival of Garson Kanin’s play. Check out my post about Nina Arianda’s impeccable performance here and critic reviews of Born Yesterday here.

I recall once standing in a train terminal in Tokyo alone and in utter confusion. A gentleman, kind but abrupt, tried to assist me but since I speak no Japanese, this was not very helpful. Eventually I began to figure things out similar to the American businessman trying to navigate and conduct business in China in David Henry Hwang’s Chinglish. While I felt the chemistry between Jennifer Lim’s Xi Yan and Gary Wilmes’ Daniel Cavanaugh was lacking, I liked the freshness of this play and how it reminded me of a girl from Brooklyn determined to figure out Tokyo. Check out critic reviews of Chinglish here.

I have always been a fan of Colombian American actor John Lequizamo and I like his solo acts. At age 47, he remains youthful, energetic and entertaining. Check out my post about John Leguizamo’s solo act here and critic reviews of Ghetto Klown here.

Out of all the plays that I saw in 2011, I ruminated on David Lindsay-Abaire’a Good People the most. Check out my post here and critic reviews of Good People here.

While I liked this Matthew Lombardo play about a foul-mouthed nun, no one else did. A quick search on the Broadway League’s website shows that this play grossed only $450K while on Broadway. Check out how High sank before it had a chance here and critic reviews of High here.

Rightfully, Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem is hitting most 2011 Best of Theater lists. Check out my post about Mark Rylance’s amazing performance in this play here and critic reviews of Jerusalem here.

Financial scandals will never go away. What is it this week? MF Global. Many thanks to the Roundabout for blowing the dust off Terence Rattigan’s 1963 play and giving us Frank Langella as psychopath businessman Gregor Antonescu. Check out my post here and critic reviews of Man and Boy here

The more I think about this Terrence McNally play about opera singer Maria Callas, the more I like it. Months later, I am still playing a Maria Callas CD. Check out my Master Class post here critic reviews of Master Class here.

Family dramas will always be a hot topic for playwrights. Jon Robin Baitz's crisp family drama, Other Desert Cities - is the best to hit the New York City stage all year. Check out my stage door post of the stellar cast here and critic reviews of Other Desert Cities here.
A divorced couple rekindles their relationship while honeymooning in the same resort with their new spouses. I wish that someone would explain to me why this Noel Coward comedy is so popular. It is not very funny. None of the superficial characters are very likable. Paul Gross’ Elyot is obnoxious. The best thing about this Broadway version was the wonderful set and crazy fish tank in the second half of the show. If interested, check out critic reviews of Private Lives here.

After not reading one positive review about this three one-act show, I have little interest in paying to see Relatively Speaking. Check out critic reviews of Relatively Speaking here.

Surprisingly, I have not seen this Theresa Rebeck play yet but hopefully this will change in the new year. While in the theater district though, I stumbled upon Alan Rickman right in the middle of the sidewalk signing playbills. Check out my Stage Door posting here and critic reviews of Seminar here.

One of the trends I notice on the New York City stage these days is how simple the playwriting is for some newer works. This simple writing feels very television or sitcom-ish. If this continues, the natural question is why pay to see live theater when you can easily affordably and comfortably stay at home and watch television. In some ways, this is how I felt while watching Stick Fly; for me the writing did not begin to show some depth until very late in the play. While it was refreshing to see a play about wealthy, educated African Americas on Broadway and one of the themes around fatherhood resonated with me (see post here), this is a good but not great play. If interested, check out critic reviews of Stick Fly here.

That Championship Season
When I think of Broadway plays I disliked this year, this Pulitzer prize winning play by Jason Miller immediately comes to mind. Check out my post here and critic reviews of That Champion Season here.

Another play that I was not blown away by is John Guare The House of Blue Leaves marking Ben Stiller's return to Broadway. Check out my post here, mentally ill women on the stage here and critic reviews of The House of Blue Leaves here.
Here is one formula for wonderful theater - combine the wit of Oscar Wilde, design a beautiful set and throw in the acting of the impeccable Brian Bedford. Check out my Brian Bedford post here and critic reviews of The Importance of Being Earnest here.

Perhaps I was at a disadvantage for seeing this overly foul and high octane play by Stephen Adly Guirgis on the first night of previews. While engaging at times, this was not a very good evening of theater for me. However, the critics disagreed for the most part. I am shocked to see it appear on a few 2011 Best of Theater lists. Check out my stage door post here and critic reviews of The Mother_______ with the Hat here

Many critics did not like this play. However, I liked Katori Hall’s interesting journey to Broadway. No one wanted to produce the play here in America until it was successful in Europe, where they just don’t have the same racial baggage that Americans seem to have. The Mountaintop shows that we are all human, including our leaders. It is original in how it imagines what this great leader might have been going through on the night before his death. It speaks about different approaches to civil rights – not just a non violent approach. Finally, it provides a good summary of the state of civil rights in America since MLK was murdered in 1968. Check out my post about finally getting to The Mountaintop here and critic reviews of The Mountaintop here.

In the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, there is a scene where Joan Rivers, who annually delivers meals for the charity, God’s Love We Deliver, jokes about seeing the same people year after year. While inroads have been made with increasing the life expectancy of those diagnosed with HIV, Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart reminded us that this was not the case in the early 1980s. Deservedly, this play shows up on Time Magazine’s and Adam Feldman’s 2011 Best of Theater lists. Check out my post about how this play left me unsettled here and critic reviews of The Normal Heart here

David Ives’ Venus in Fur probably worked better at the intimate semi-circular Classic Stage Company than it does on Broadway. However, no matter where it plays, it is worth seeing Nina Arianda in this sexy conversational piece between a playwright and an actress. There are various interpretations about who Vanda really based on the end of the play. I touched on my take on this character in my post about mysterious women here. Check out critic reviews of Venus in Fur here. For those who missed Venus in Fur on Broadway, no worries; it returns in February 2012 - this time at the Lyceum Theatre.

On December 25th, Steven Spielberg is releasing the film War Horse in movie theaters. While I tend to prefer live theater, now millions will get to see this wonderful WWI story about a boy and his horse. Check out how this play adapted from Michael Morpurgo's novel made me shed a tear here and critic reviews of War Horse here

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