A RAISIN IN THE SUN at Two River Theater

The whole company of A RAISIN IN THE SUN at Two River Theater.

*****

A robust, crackling production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN is currently playing at Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ, but you need to hurry if you are going to catch this modern classic brought to electrifying life by a superb company under the adept direction of Carl Cofield. This production closes October 8th.

There isn’t a weak link in this cast led by Brenda Pressley and Brandon J. Dirden and there isn’t a false emotion in this thrilling production. Once again Two River shows its strength as a Producer of classic drama. Book your ticket now!

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MARVIN’S ROOM

MARVIN’S ROOM Janeane Garofalo, Lili Taylor. Photo by Joan Marcus.

***

Comedy may be hard, but it seems dark comedy is harder still. After the dour movie starring La Streep, I was happy to get to revisit my beloved MARVIN’S ROOM with the Roundabout’s production starring Lili Taylor, Janeane Garofalo and Celia Weston. I guess I’ll have to hold off on my celebrations until the next revival.

MARVIN’S ROOM, written by Scott McPherson who died at the age of 33 from AIDS, is filled with gallows humor and moments of heartbreaking beauty. This production has mined only half of the laughs and glosses over some of the most touching moments from the play. The director, Anne Kauffman, is aware that it is a comedy, but goes for the broadest jokes as with the overplayed Doctor. Some of the most poignant scenes are barely audible and not given the full weight that they deserve, as in the pivotal scene where Bessie explains to Lee how she benefits from caregiving. Those lines should resonate and devastate, instead, they are just another conversation on an oversized stage. The set is cumbersome and you lose all sense of intimacy so necessary in the tender scenes. The sound design is inadequate to the point where one character is inaudible for half of his lines, further distancing the audience.

I will never forget sitting down at the Minetta Lane Theatre and laughing till I cried at the plight of these Health System Warriors and their struggles to retain their humanity. Even a half-hearted revival won’t dim that memory.

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THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR

****1/2

The art of skilled buffoonery is on full display at the raucous, hilarious delight, THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR, playing a limited 6 week run at New World Stages. Based on Gogol’s classic comedy of small town corruption, this modern translation by Jeffrey Hatcher is the perfect springboard for the comedia-like zany antics, laid out with clockwork precision by Director Jesse Berger. Along with Casting Director Stuart Howard, Berger assembles a cast of the Theater’s best clowns including Michael McGrath as the blowhard Mayor, Mary Testa (using the full range of her speaking voice) as his conniving wife, Arnie Burton in equally droll dual roles and Mary Lou Rosato, who is funny whether on her knees or standing.

But the greatest delight in a show full of riches is watching the inimitable Michael Urie giving a tornado of a comedic  performance that leaves you breathless and hysterical.  This tour-de-force portrayal is inspired lunacy, even when he is just trying to sit on a stool. Don’t miss it.

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