Saturday, April 18, 2015

in a word @ Cleveland Public Theatre


Through May 2, 2015
6415 Detroit Avenue, 216-631-2727    

Bob Abelman

While the subject matter explored in this play is weighty and disturbing, this production is a remarkably engaging and brilliantly orchestrated series of images.  And it is surprisingly buoyant thanks to superb performers who have mastered the playwright’s complex wordplay and found the dark humor in the deepest recesses of this intriguing work.     

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here or at:  http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/columnists/bob_abelman/

Roy Berko
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Kerry Clawson
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.

Howard Gollop
No review yet.

Mark Horning
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.


Christine Howey

Fiona's quiet, climactic scene with a Kit Kat bar is, given its context, perhaps the most trenchant human interaction with chocolate since Willy Wonka boffed the Swiss Miss on the Cocoa Cruiser ride at Hershey Park.

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's review at  Cleveland Scene

Andrea Simakis
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Andrea Simakis' blog or visit Cleveland.com here.

Art Thomas
No review yet.
Click here to read the complete review at WestLife

Friday, April 17, 2015

Bad Jews @ Actors' Summit


Through May 3, 2015

Greystone Hall, 103 High St., Akron, 330-374-7568.
 Bob Abelman

More lows than chais in Actors' Summit's "Bad Jews."

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here or go to:  http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/columnists/bob_abelman/.

Roy Berko

BAD JEWS is a poorly conceived play with a title that is a put-off for many and may well be misleading.
 
To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Kerry Clawson
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.

Howard Gollop
No review yet.

Mark Horning


Mis-billed as a comedy, this dark drama would work for people who have experienced probate court regardless of their religious affiliation.  It is a study into what lengths people will go to in order to have their own way.  Unfortunately, the dialog gets in the way of the message and the ending resolves nothing.  In short, the play is an unnatural experience that fans of film noir might appreciate with a collection of characters that you will find hard to like, much less love.   
To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Andrea Simakis
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Andrea Simakis' blog or visit Cleveland.com here.

Art Thomas
No review yet.
Click here to read the complete review at WestLife

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Tempest @ Great Lakes Theater


Through April 26, 2015

Hanna Theatre, 2067 E. 14th St., , 216-241-6000 
Bob Abelman

High concept seems low-budget in Great Lakes’ "The Tempest."

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here or go to:  http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/columnists/bob_abelman/

Roy Berko


THE TEMPEST, reported to be Shakespeare’s last solo dramatic writing, is not one of the Bard’s great plays, but there is enough fantasy and intrigue to allow for a pleasant evening of theater.  The GLT production does justice to the script.

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Mark Horning


While the acting itself for the most part is superb, Great Lake Theater’s production of “The Tempest” is too convoluted to be understood by a first time audience member. Distractions ranging from costuming, set design and continuity make it difficult to follow. It is the Bard’s last work and not his best and neither is the Great Lakes Theater rendition their best as well.

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Christine Howey

Give credit to GLT for trying something new in this interpretation of The Tempest. But when the story gets camouflaged in a torrent of design flourishes and jarring tonal switchbacks, the audience has to work even harder to find Will’s real magic.

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's blog Rave and Pan

Art Thomas
  
"Reimagining the classics" has gone a bit too far in this production where the story becomes lost in the sometimes intriguing, sometimes bizarre production concept. Prospero's "cell" is a huge magic box right out of David Copperfield's Magic where spoken of people, props, and events appear. 

Click here to read the complete review at WestLife

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike @ Cleveland Play House


Through April 26, 2015

1407 Euclid Avenue, 216-241-6000.

Bob Abelman

Imagine hearing the words of 19th century Russian playwright Anton Chekhov – a man who proclaimed that his work was meant to say to an audience “Have a look at yourselves and see how bad and dreary your lives are!” – but with a laugh track.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here or go to:  http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/columnists/bob_abelman/

Roy Berko


VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE is a well-crafted play filled with comedy and tenderness.  It well deserved its Tony Award.  Though the CPH production does not live up to the Broadway production, some fine performances overcome some questionable directorial decisions in actor selection and character development, and make this a positive, but not great theatrical experience.

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Howard Gollop

Sometimes, the best way to deal with tragic figures is to just, well, laugh at them.
It’s a notion Cleveland Play House proves nightly through April 26 at Playhouse Square’s Allen Theatre, housing Christopher Durang’s hit Broadway farce, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” ... In addition to characters, lots of Chekhovian themes are gleefully ground up and remixed in Durang’s deceptively traditional drawing-room melange.


Mark Horning

Although based on Chekhov characters and situations, no prior knowledge of the famous playwright is needed to enjoy this play.  It is simply a couple of hours of unabashed humor that will delight and make you feel good about life in general.  Each and every actor shines at some point and the comic bar is jumped over time and time again.  Take your best friend to see this and enjoy a hearty laugh or two.

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog here.

Christine Howey
As directed by Bruce Jordan, Vanya (and etc.) leaves us with lots of slickly manufactured, TV sitcom laughs, but little of the tragic-comic relevance that Chekhov mastered.  

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's blog Rave and Pan

Art Thomas

The handpicked cast are spot on the eccentric characters they play and take full opportunity of their solo moments to shine in this piece which is actually far more audience accessible than many of Durang's other oddball plays.
   
Click here to read the complete review at WestLife

Kinky Boots @ PlayhouseSquare


Through April 19, 2015
1615 Euclid Avenue, 216-241-6000


Bob Abelman

If the musicals "Billy Elliot" and "Priscilla:  Queen of the Desert" had a baby, it would be "Kinky Boots."

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's blog here or go to:  http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/columnists/bob_abelman/

Roy Berko

KINKY BOOTS is the kind of musical that seeing it once is not enough.  The music, the storyline, the humor, the stage excitement makes this a very, very special theatrical experience.  The touring production of the show is as good as the Broadway show.  This is one staging that deserves a standing ovation, not just the automatic polite Cleveland one, but a real, well-deserved one.  Bravo!
 
To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Kerry Clawson

The musical KINKY BOOTS splashes onto the Playhouse Square stage in surprisingly bold and wonderful ways. But despite all the over-the-top high-fashion footwear featured in this audacious show, the biggest impression audiences are left with is that this musical has oodles of heart.

To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.


Howard Gollop

There have been great Broadway musicals based on indie movies about dying working-class small towns in England -- "Full Monty" and "Billy Elliot."  There have been great Broadway musicals based on indie movies about drag queens -- “La Cage aux Folles” and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.”  So it stands to reason that a Broadway musical based on an indie movie about a dying working-class small town in England invaded by drag queens would be a sure-fire, double-duty hit.  Indeed it is.

Mark Horning

It’s basically “Broadway by the Numbers” but with an exceptional cast who makes the show bigger than life.  If you are looking for a rock ‘em sock ‘em high energy show with lots of glitter and flash this is the one you must see. 
    
To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Christine Howey
This bold, brassy and sassy musical spares no wattage as it flashes a galaxy of shiny, thigh-high leg holsters, in service to a story that is not nearly as inventive as the footwear.    

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's blog Rave and Pan

Andrea Simakis

"Boots" has glam, camp and high-kicking heart!

To see a full review of this show, read Andrea Simakis' blog or visit Cleveland.com here.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Extremities @ Blank Canvas Theatre





Through April 18, 2015

78th Street Studio, W. 78th Street, 440-941-0458
 Bob Abelman

Despite the immense shortcomings in the play and the unfortunate foreshadowing in director Jonathan Kronenberger’s staging, the four actors do excellent work in turning Mastrosimone's caricatures into believable characters.  In addition, the fight choreography and execution of the violent assault early in this play is singularly shocking.  

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here or 
http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/columnists/bob_abelman/


Christine Howey


While this play by William Mastrosimone is not without its flaws, it has a brutal honesty and enough credible moral complexity to fuel a number of intense post-show conversations.

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's review at  Cleveland Scene


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lend Me a Tenor @ Beck Center for the Arts


Through April 26, 2015
17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-2540


Bob Abelman

Have a fondness for farce?  Let the door slamming begin.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here
http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/columnists/bob_abelman/

Roy Berko


LEND ME A TENOR is one of the best modern day farces.  It gets a must-see production at Beck Center.  Farce is hard to do, but on the Beck stage, Scott Spence and his well-honed cast make it look exhausting, but easy.  Go, enjoy!

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Mark Horning
   
Without a doubt this is one of the wittiest and laugh out loud funniest productions to hit the boards in some time.  The chemistry is electric and each comedic vignette is a gem.  Fill the seats for this one.  
To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Christine Howey
You need to bring along an industrial-strength dose of the medicine that powers all farces: a willing suspension of disbelief. Armed with that potent elixir, this bundle of silliness will tickle your funny bone in numerous places. 

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's review at  Cleveland Scene

Twelfth Night @ Ensemble Theatre


Through April 4, 2015
2843 Washington Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216-202-0938


Christine Howey

Done in modern dress, the fictional setting of “Illyria” seems much closer to the all-too-real Elyria in this neck of the woods. But this tidy version manages to capture some of the magic.

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's blog Rave and Pan


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Isaac's Eye @ convergence-continuum


Through April 11, 2015

At The Liminis, 2438 Scranton Road, Tremont, 216-687-0074

Bob Abelman

“Don’t you give points for originality?” asks a young Isaac Newton when begging fellow scientist Robert Hooke for entrance into the Royal Society.  Although originality didn’t seem to count for much in the world of 17th-century science, it certainly does on the convergence-continuum stage.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's article here:  http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/columnists/

Roy Berko


ISAAC’S EYE is one of those productions that if you don’t see it, you’ll be missing a very special theatrical experience.  Good job con-con!

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Christine Howey

So, are scientists angels or devils? As Isaac’s Eye by Lucas Hnath posits, maybe the answer is a lot more complex. And this production at convergence-continuum manages to plumb the intricacies of both science and scientific fame in a fast-paced, layered staging that continually delights and surprises.

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's review at  Cleveland Scene


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Mighty Scarabs!, Karamu House


Through March 29, 2015
2355 E. 89th St., 216-795-7077    


Christine Howey


Calhoun’s script shines brilliantly, etching clear and entertaining portraits of people who once shared something great. Director Christopher Johnston, in addition to shaping scenes that pop off the stage, has also cast the show adroitly.

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's blog Rave and Pan


Andrea Simakis

"The Mighty Scarabs!" is a skillful collision of reality and fiction, a funny, lyrical and mournful exploration of what happens to hardwood stars, boys feted as heroes by blacks and whites alike, when the cheering stops.

 To see a full review of this show, read Andrea Simakis' blog or visit Cleveland.com here.
 



Saturday, March 7, 2015

Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays @ Cleveland Public Theatre


Through March 21, 2015

6415 Detroit Avenue, 216-631-2727

Roy Berko


STANDING ON CEREMONY THE GAY MARRIAGE PLAYS is a must see production for anyone who has empathy toward  same sex marriage movement.  It should be required seeing for conservatives who don’t understand why there is a need for a “gay agenda.” It’s also of value to return attendees as a second viewing exposes subtle materials not previously grasped, the set is new, and there have been some positive cast changes.

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Mark Horning

No matter where you stand on the subject of gay marriage, this is must see theater.  The message is presented without being political or preachy.  It is enlightenment through entertainment which is what good theater is all about.  Leave your preconceptions at the door and simply enjoy the ride of really good theatrical performances.

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Christine Howey
This play, directed with energy and style by Craig J. George, does exactly that, through huge dollops of humor and a couple emotional interludes that make clear why marriage rights are so important. 

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's review at  Cleveland Scene


Becky Shaw @ Dobama Theatre


Through March 29, 2015

2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-932-3396

Bob Abelman

It is rare and wonderful when so much comedy comes out of something as caustic as "Becky Shaw," and Dobama Theatre’s superb production doesn’t miss a gag or an opportunity to activate the gag reflex.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here:  http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/columnists/

Roy Berko


Gina Gionfriddo has written a play that is both fun and thought provoking.  It gets a marvelous production at Dobama.  This is theatre at its best.  The director, the cast, and the technical staff all deserve kudos!!!   Ah, if only every night at the theater could be like this!


To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Mark Horning


Becky Shaw is “in your face” combat theater that keeps tightening up the tension until your ears begin to ring.  It is equal parts drama/comedy/mystery/morality that takes no prisoners.  The surprise ending will having you hoping for a sequel.  See this with your spouse.  It will make your relationship look like a bed of roses by comparison.       

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Christine Howey

Thanks to a tight production that fairly twangs under the direction of Donald Carrier, the playwright’s sharp-edged dialogue shoves the audience down a perilous, icy chute on well-oiled roller skates. 

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's review at  Cleveland Scene



Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Pianist of Willesden Lane @ Cleveland Play House


Through March 22, 2015
Allen Theatre, PlayhouseSquare, 216-241-6000


Bob Abelman

All of us readers of the Cleveland Jewish News have a personal story to share about Kristellnacht and its life-altering impact on our families. But none of us, save for Mona Golabek, have the remarkable skill and unique opportunity to set those stories to classical music and share them on stage.   

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here:  http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/columnists/

Roy Berko


THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE is a special theatrical and musical event.  An absolute “must see,” the script and the production educate, entertain and enrapture!  Kudos to  Mona Golabek and Hershey Felder for creating an experience that viewers will long remember.

 
To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Kerry Clawson




Mona Golabek offered a soulful performance of her one-woman show "The Pianist of Willesden Lane," a gripping, 90-minute piece with no intermission at Cleveland Play House’s Allen Theatre. The Grammy-nominated classical concert pianist told from the piano the story of her mother’s Kindertransport flight from Vienna to London just before World War II broke out. Golabek expertly interspersed the music of Chopin, Beethoven, Debussy and Grieg with the dramatic true story of her mother, Lisa Jura.  This inspiring show about the life-affirming power of music for one girl through the dark history of the Holocaust is a must-see for audiences of all ages.

 To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.

Mark Horning


This is theater of such magnitude that it is no surprise that tickets for the sold out performances are becoming dear.  Mona Golabek gives what can only be described as a once in a lifetime theater experience that will evoke sincere changes in the way you look at performances from now on.  It is a story of love, hope, talent, luck, perseverance and sacrifice.  It is the ultimate theatrical experience.   

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Christine Howey


This show, which is touring many cities, is a tight and captivating package highlighted by Golabek’s entrancing talents at the keyboard of her Steinway grand piano. The piano is not only the key set piece on the mostly black stage, it is absolutely central to Golabek’s life.


To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's blog Rave and Pan


Andrea Simakis



Though the details of her life fascinate, Lisa Jura's story stands in for the more than 10,000 children spared from the gas chambers by a seat on the Kindertransport.

As their numbers dwindle with each passing year, so do their stories of survival. This is something Golabek knows. Her every stroke of the gleaming keys echoes the words that swirled up from the ashes of a war torn world: "Never forget."

To see a full review of this show, read Andrea Simakis' blog or visit Cleveland.com here.

Art Thomas


This show is storytelling at its finest, with a performer who is first of all a top notch concert pianist. There are moments of powerful sadness, but the overarching element is hope for the future. 

 
Click here to read the complete review at WestLife

Dirty Dancing @ PlayhouseSquare


Through March 22, 2015
Connor Palace, PlayhouseSquare, 216-241-6000


Bob Abelman


When the dancing stops and the dry ice settles, it is clear that “Dirty Dancing” is merely a color-by-number musical whose fanatical devotion to the duplication of the movie's storyline and cinematic sensibilities is more disorienting and disappointing than engaging.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here
http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/columnists/bob_abelman/

Roy Berko


If you go to see DIRTY DANCING THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE expecting the emotional and sensual overload that many experienced from the film, you will be very disappointed.  The only way to watch this touring production is to sit back, take the unspectacular staging, the mediocre acting and dancing, and soap opera story for what it is.  The opening night audience slowly got to its feet as the curtain call proceeded.  Was the show that good?  No, but take into consideration this is Cleveland.  Cleveland, the home of  polite people who stand at the end of almost every show, deserving or not.

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Kerry Clawson

The 1987 film "Dirty Dancing" captured viewers' hearts and imaginations with its incredible dancing and the undeniable chemistry of its stars — Patrick Swayze as Johnny and Jennifer Grey as Baby.  
"Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage" tries to keep the love going but fell flat Wednesday night at Playhouse Square’s Connor Palace. That’s because Gillian Abbott, who just assumed the role of Baby for the Cleveland run, and swing Josh Drake, filling in as Johnny for Samuel Pergande who’s suffering from a hand injury, had very little chemistry together Wednesday night.

To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.


Mark Horning


While any opinion will do little to change the guaranteed sellout that this production will enjoy, go see this badly acted show for the music and some dance but don’t expect to be wowed.           

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Christine Howey

Dirty Dancing is a hybrid musical that gives you more than your money’s worth in terms of visual and auditory pizzazz. And, you know, it has the iconic bits: "(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life" and the swan dive lift. But if you’re looking for the unvarnished heart of the original, you can find that on Netflix.

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's blog Rave and Pan


Andrea Simakis


"Dirty Dancing" onstage is as critic-proof as the flick was when it opened in theaters nearly 30 years ago. (For the record, this reviewer has been known to draw the shades, ignore phone calls and abandon dinner plans upon encountering a "Dirty Dancing" cable marathon.)

To see a full review of this show, read Andrea Simakis' blog or visit Cleveland.com here.

Art Thomas

You'll see some great dancing, with duplications of the poses and images from the movie. There's the addition of two key songs given to a pair of feisty singers. The plot line remains thin and the cartoonish nature of the show indicates that no one takes it too seriously....which is how it should be. 
 
Click here to read the complete review at WestLife

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Book Club Play @ Actors' Summit


Through March 15, 2015

Greystone Hall, 103 High St., Akron, 330-374-7568 
Bob Abelman

Director MaryJo Alexander recognizes this play’s potential and is skilled enough to follow up on it.  Through clever casting , fast pacing, and a concerted effort to reel in what comes across on the page as disingenuous, Alexander finds common ground between what is acerbic and what is asinine.  There are still moments when one brand of comedy wins out over the other and when an actor cannot find the humanity in the humor.  But the end result is a very funny play that will appeal to just about everyone.  

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's article here
http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/columnists/bob_abelman/


Kerry Clawson

As heavy-handed as the unlikable Ana is, playwright Karen Zacarias’ comedy, now running at Actors’ Summit in downtown Akron, is heavy-handed too. There’s nothing subtle or surprising about her humor: The play’s heightened sense of self-awareness leads to trite-sounding dialogue that overstates the obvious.  The comedy, which premiered in 2008 in Bethesda, Md., feels dated and overly simplistic now as it proffers a sort of book club for dummies to explain what the 'Twilight' series and Twihards are.


To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.


Mark Horning

The Book Club Play is an absolutely delightful way to spend an afternoon or evening.  The writing is smart and witty and the comic timing is superb.  There are some truly funny moments that have a universal appeal even to those not in book clubs.  This one is a real page turner.

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.