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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Noël Coward’s PRESENT LAUGHTER

***

PRESENT LAUGHTER by Noël Coward is a funny, droll, witty romantic comedy. Kevin Kline, always mesmerizing onstage, is cast as an aging Broadway star who recites his favorite love lines to entice young women and reacts to minor affronts like he’s playing to an imaginary balcony. This role is tailor-made for him.

Regrettably, Moritz Von Stuelpnagel’s wacky, gag-riddled direction misses its mark. Coward requires a sly, even hand; it is a comedy of manners, not burlesque. Von Stuelpnagel has his cast performing slapstick, mugging and generally overacting, as if he didn’t trust the material to entertain on its own.

If you want the lead character to be recognized as an aging ham, you can’t surround him with prosciutto.

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