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A Christmas Carol

Adapter-director Tim Gregory offers his warmhearted take on Dickens’s inexhaustible parable for a third season. It centers on arguably the best Scrooge ever: perfectly blending joy with fear, Brad Armacost makes you taste both Ebenezer’s lonely misanthropy and his unearned redemption. This Scrooge tangibly relives scenes from his earlier life and tastes his mortality with […]

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A Christmas Carol

Former Scrooge William Brown stages this production, which deepens by darkening. In Tom Creamer’s lean, uncompromising adaptation, Scrooge is no mere covetous clown–he’s a bogeyman so miserly he’s monstrous. If he can be saved, there’s hope for all of us. Jonathan Weir as Scrooge never conceals the character’s defensive cruelties. Other pluses: Andrew Hansen’s supple […]

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A Couple of Blaguards

When Frank and Malachy McCourt brought this show to CrossCurrents in 1984 it was a huge hit–and it’s lost no power to please. Delivered with dour delight, wizard timing, and expert blarney by Jarlath Conroy and Howard Platt (who also directs), the rollicking tales chart the brothers’ love/hate affair with Limerick, where poverty was the […]

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Othello in Mask

Polarity Ensemble Theatre seems to have substituted masks for costumes, sets, and lighting (mainly flashlights here). Zack Brenner’s eight performers lift their masks when speaking the truth and otherwise allow their fixed facades to indicate prevarication–but facial coverings also paralyze the acting. This very raw Othello sacrifices eloquence to energy; three Cassios are two too […]

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Proof

NProof | When a brilliant but unstable University of Chicago mathematician dies, his daughter Catherine must face her fear of a possible connection between genius and madness. The puzzle in David Auburn’s 2001 Pulitzer winner is how the titular proof, a labor of love meant to disguise mental illness, can also be a mathematical breakthrough. […]

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Hamlet

You could argue that what makes Hamlet difficult to produce today is its sheer familiarity. This efficient, concept-free staging by veteran British director Terry Hands is more intelligent than passionate: he refuses to belabor the obvious or the notorious in Shakespeare’s tragedy. Free of doubt even when he’s indecisive, Ben Carlson’s Hamlet broods brilliantly. He […]

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Mother Courage and Her Children

It’s a combustible mix: adapter David Hare’s sardonic, corrosive dialogue with Bertolt Brecht’s devastating indictment of renegade capitalism and soulless profiteering in a time of “total fear.” The resulting play is tragically topical–eclectic, stylized, and riveting in Elizabeth Carlin-Metz’s staging for Vitalist Theatre. Making the hardest bargains possible and thriving on others’ misery, our antiheroine […]

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A New Brain

In this glorious small-scale show, La Costa Theatre Company exhibits the same energy and classy confidence it brought to The Last Five Years earlier this year. A New Brain–William Finn and James Lapine’s 1998 musical about Finn facing brain surgery–employs 34 songs in 90 minutes to chronicle fears of mortality and doubts about art. Directors […]

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Tales of the Lost Formicans

Constance Congdon imagines a research team of interstellar visitors delivering an illustrated lecture on the “lost” species of Homo sapiens. The cheerful extraterrestrials completely misunderstand the vignettes they present of suburban anomie, adolescent angst, miscommunication, dislocation, and dead jobs and dreams. But we get the pain, hard and fast, in this dark and glum 1984 […]

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The Visit

It sounds like ghastly reality TV: The world’s richest woman returns to her now-impoverished hometown to bribe the locals to murder an upstanding citizen for having seduced and abandoned her decades before. Can money buy justice? Tautly constructed and ethically challenging, Friedrich Durrenmatt’s dark comedy pitilessly exposes people whose values are for hire. Director Jennifer […]

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Jeffrey

Paul Rudnick’s 1993 tragicomedy, now happily dated in its depiction of the early years of AIDS, centers on the title character’s sudden attack of abstinence: With a virus on the loose, sex is no fun, even (or especially) if it’s safe. Exasperating Jeffrey is the last gay man in New York to sense that a […]

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Flora, the Red Menace

Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb began their partnership with this nearly forgotten 1965 delight, also Liza Minnelli’s Broadway debut. In this survival saga with a cautionary ending reminiscent of Sweet Charity, hopeful Hungarian Flora, a fashion illustrator turned radical, gets entangled with the communist party–until she’s asked to sacrifice love for independence. This […]

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The Last Five Years

Jason Robert Brown’s song cycle, which details the rise and fall of a relationship, was last performed here less than three months ago by La Costa Theatre Company. Josh Solomon’s One Theatre Company staging features a full orchestration (as in Northlight’s 2001 debut), and Andrew Weir and Diane Mair deliver ardent performances, his songs recounting […]

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Lady Chaplin & Her Tramp: The Life & Art of Charlie Chaplin

There’s too much unprocessed life and not enough art in Michael Stock’s play. Chaplin’s career is recalled by his last wife, the frenetic Oona (Eugene O’Neill’s daughter), who talks about a clumsy chain of sex scandals (including statutory rape), FBI intimidation, four mainly miserable marriages, forced exile, unhappy children, and tabloid trifles. Jonathan Pereira as […]

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Sweet Smell of Success

In 2002 the Hamlisch/Carnelia/Guare musical version of Ernest Lehman’s 1950 novelette (and the 1957 film) was given a pre-Broadway run at the Shubert. Four years later, under Kevin Bellie’s direction, it feels swifter, tighter, and much hungrier, the story’s cruelties all the more concentrated on an intimate stage. With a plot as seamy as the […]