THE GIN GAME

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Looks fade, charm diminishes, but acting talent is a gift for life.  Two of our most beloved and renowned Actors are giving magnificent performances in THE GIN GAME and the theater is embarrassingly half full.  James Earl Jones, whom I will never forget in the original Broadway production of FENCES, and Cicely Tyson, who proved her stage chops in THE TRIP TO THE BOUNTIFUL, whine, snark, scream, chew scenery, berate, feign tears, and in one delicious scene, they mug straight out to the audience and the audience roars with laughter.  As a matter of fact, we are in the palms of their hands from curtain up till curtain down.  These two treasures will not be around forever and it’s shameful that this show is not sold out.  Here’s a discount.  Go now – it’s scheduled to close Jan. 10, 2016.

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Cumberbatch in HAMLET

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I think Benedict Cumberbatch is a very talented actor and in SHERLOCK and THE IMITATION GAME he gave very compelling, textured portrayals.  Unfortunately, in the Barbican HAMLET his performance is broad with few layers.  When you are playing one of the most complex roles in history, you hope for depth.  I’m afraid there’s not much here.

Lyndsey Turner’s direction is acceptable, a little showy and she has rearranged the script to suit her needs, but serviceable.  The rest of the cast is fine, except Ciaran Hinds who shows us what is missing from the lead.  Perhaps with a different director, Mr. Cumberbatch could have soared.

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SYLVIA

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If you like dogs, I recommend you go see the current revival of SYLVIA, A. R. Gurney’s sweet canine love letter. It’s about a man who is smitten with a dog that annoys the bejesus out of his wife. A lot of the laughs come from the charming Annaleigh Ashford’s embodiment of the dog. Set on New York’s Upper West Side, Ms. Ashford barks (“Hey, hey, hey.”), sniffs and chews her way into our hearts.

It’s tough having a show centered on a expressively limited being, I’m talking about Matthew Broderick not the dog, but he holds his own, if still using his trademark sing-song, whiny delivery. Robert Sella, playing three roles; a man, a woman and a “Pat,” is uniquely funny in every role. I couldn’t help wondering if his “Pat” was patterned on Tommy Tune? Daniel Sullivan’s crisp direction still allows the emotional punch to carry weight. David Rockwell beautifully designs the set, showing both inside the apartment and Central Park.

But the real star of the evening is Julie White. Anyone who has ever seen her on stage can tell you. She’s a magician. She takes the role of the villain and makes her a real person: self-aware when she is being strident and ultimately able to break your heart with pathos. So I guess I have to take that back, if you like dogs OR if you like to see a great actress performing the heck out of a role, go see SYLVIA.

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