CHINA DOLL

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Anytime you get the chance to see Al Pacino on stage, you should go. Even if he is just reading his Christmas cards, he is mesmerizing.  Even if he is just yelling at people on a telephone for almost the entire length of a two-hour 10 minute play.  Really.

Usually Mamet and Pacino are a good fit, though not particularly in the most recent revival of GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS.  In CHINA DOLL, a farfetched tale of greed and politics, you get the feeling that David Mamet has watched too many episodes of HOUSE OF CARDS. But where HOUSE OF CARDS breaks the fourth wall to create a heightened reality, CHINA DOLL remains incredulously unrealistic while mired in our everyday existence.

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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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