Monday, April 30, 2018

215 (2017-2018): Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD (seen April 28, 2018)

“Now Departing from Track 9 ¾”

Judging by the fanfare, the glowing reviews, the difficulty of getting seats (regardless of the exorbitant prices), its huge success in London, and the fact that, at a reported $68 million Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is by many millions the most expensive show in history, one might expect that seeing it would be a once-in-a-lifetime theatrical thrill ride you would visit even at the cost of your immortal soul.

And, for countless fans, even the soul-sellers, it is. Harry Potter and his fellow wizards have cast a worldwide spell that nothing is likely to undo, certainly not a few skeptical reviews about his Broadway debut from critical Voldemorts. 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opened in London in July 2016, nearly 20 years after the first book in J.K. Rowling’s series was published, when the boy-wizard was 11. The script is by Jack Thorne, based on a story by Thorne, Rowling, and John Tiffany, who directed. It broke records for the number of Olivier Award nominations (11) and wins (9) it racked up.

Noma Dumezweni, Susan Heyward, Paul Thornley, Olivia Bond, Ben Wheelwright, Jamie Parker, Poppy Miller, Sam Clemmett. Photo: Manuel Harlan.
The New York production, which includes several actors from the London original, will surely approach that number of Tonys and multiple other awards now that it’s ensconced at Broadway’s Lyric Theatre (which is actually a 1998 combination of the original Lyric [1903] and Apollo Theatres [1910]). It's by no means a great play but is certainly a great experience.
Sam Clemmett, Brian Abraham, Anthony Boyle. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
Part of the cost for producing the show has been targeted on exquisitely renovating the Lyric into something reminiscent of a spatially yawning European opera house. Its look captures the Victorian style associated with Hogwarts, the wizardry school at the heart of the stories.
Poppy Miller, Jamie Parker. Photo: Manuel Harlan.
As befits a Hagrid-size behemoth like the seven-novel, eight-movie Potter series, the play it inspired is in two parts, which can be seen on separate days or in a matinee and evening performance on the same day, which is how I attended. The first part is two hours and 40 minutes, the second two hours and 35, totaling over five hours (including intermissions).
Jamie Parker, Sam Clemmett. Photo: Manuel Harlan.
The story takes place 19 years after the last book. Harry (Jamie Parker) is 37, he’s married to Ginny Weasley (Poppy Miller), and is sending his middle son, Albus (Sam Clemmett) off to Hogwarts. Ron Weasley (Paul Thornley) and his wife, Hermione Granger (Noma Dumezwani), are doing the same with their daughter, Rose Granger-Weasley (Susan Heyward). Harry is a bureaucrat at the Ministry of Magic and Ron operates a store selling jokes.
Jamie Parker. Photo: Manuel Harlan.
The complex plot throws Albus and the white-haired Scorpius Malfoy (Anthony Boyle), son of Harry’s similarly white-haired nemesis, Draco Malfoy (Alex Price), together as students in Slytherin House, rather than Albus being sent to Gryffindor. Albus is disgruntled, hating the school and feeling overshadowed by his famous dad.
Noma Dumezweni, Jamie Parker, Paul Thornley. Photo: Manuel Harlan.
There follow a series of magical and dangerous adventures during which Albus and Scorpius’s friendship evolves amidst a rash of incidents involving a blanket on which a magic potion has spilled, the use of Time Turners to travel into the past so history can be altered by preventing Cedric Diggory’s (Benjamin Wheelright) death, painful parent-child issues between Harry and Albus, as well as Draco and Scorpius, the manifestation of alternate realities, a talking portrait of the late Albus Dumbledore (Edward James Hyland), Triwizard Tournaments, a GPS-like map, invisibility cloaks, quidditch sticks, Bane the centaur (David St. Louis), and so on.
Jamie Parker. Photo: Manuel Harlan.
Which is not to deny the appearance of the Death Eaters, Severus Snape (Byron Jennings), the Dementors, Moaning Myrtle (Lauren Nicole Cipolleti), the mysterious Delphi Diggory (Jessie Fisher), Lord Voldemort (Jennings), and other familiar entities—magical and Muggles—in the boundless Potter canon.
Jamie Parker, Alex Price. Photo: Manuel Harlan.
Numerous obstacles to the boys’ achieving their goals arise, but, time and again, someone comes up with a remarkable breakthrough, knowing just what magical device will save the day, and often seconded by someone else, who solves whatever issues still remain in the first solution. This increasingly tiresome pattern of Eureka! moments is repeated over and over as the clocks (many appear in the show) tick down and the finale approaches.
Brian Abraham. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
For visitors wishing a brief summary of the Potter oeuvre this summary link (also printed in the program) might help, although, like me, you may find it makes more sense after you’ve seen the play than before. Those who have only the barest familiarity (or none) with the Potter books will be at a disadvantage, so it’s best to go with someone who knows them, as I and a number of other reviewers did.
Company of Harry Potter and the  Cursed Child. Photo: Manuel Harlan.
 In my case, a reading of the first book and a viewing of the first two movies gave me a fair idea of what to expect but my 26-year-old granddaughter, who’d been reading the books since they first appeared—my God! She must have been six or seven!—has Potter blood in her veins. Although even her enthusiasm lapsed at some moments, I admit, she was very impressed by how well the material transferred to the stage and at a number of the special effects.
Company of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
I don’t recall seeing a play where so many unknown actors were applauded on their entrances. That’s because the audience, like my granddaughter, immediately recognized each beloved character and clapped for them, not their actors. It was like hearing a single chord of a popular song at a concert or musical and immediately responding to what one knows is coming. I had to ask my granddaughter things like who was Neville Longbottom, the mere mention of whose name sent an excited ripple through the audience.

Although there are serious moments of human interest in the dramatic interactions among the play’s friends and family member characters, audiences—especially those taking young kids along (and there were plenty when I went although I can’t imagine how much they’re comprehending)—are likely to be entranced mostly by the spectacle.
Brian Abraham and company. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
People fly about, dancers in black capes swirl around doing Steven Hoggett’s movements to Imogen Heap’s atmospheric music, characters transform before your eyes into others, books open so their pages can talk, blazing fire flashes across the stage, Dementors in flimsy sheets swirl overhead (even above the audience in the mezzanine and balcony), furniture moves without human agency, and the like. Illusions and tricks are credited to Jamie Harrison, special effects to Jeremy Chernick.
Company of Harry Potter and the  Cursed Child. Photo: Manuel Harlan.
All occurs within Christine Jones’s imposing set of metal structural arches like those in a grand railroad station, with a huge clock hovering over all up center. At certain explosive moments, the arches tremble like rubber. The individual locations in this multi-scened work, however, are, for the most part, standard units that roll off and on, pushed by actors, the most conspicuous being a pair of tall staircases that are choreographed to slide into a surprisingly diverse number of positions.

Katrina Lindsay’s costumes are just what the play’s combination of late Victorian realism and fantasy require. Neil Austin’s lighting offers the many effects required, of course, but, apart from all those piercing shafts of light in the gloom, the overall effect is dark and smoky (the fog machine gets a  workout).
Edward James Hyland, Sam Clemmett, Anthony Boyle. Photo: Manuel Harlan.
While the mixed British and American cast speaks the wordy dialogue precisely, the driving pace and need to reach ears in the large house (even with miking) forces much of it to be shouted, with little room for subtlety. It’s a widespread problem, some actors guiltier than others, but the result often suggests old-time melodrama, which, I suppose, is probably close to the heart of the Harry Potter syndrome.

Noma Dumezweni's Hermione, Sam Clemmett’s Albus, Poppy Miller's Ginny, and Jamie Parker’s Harry—all from the London production—manage to establish reasonably believable personages within this world of mostly two-dimensional characters; New York’s Byron Jennings also belongs here. My granddaughter thought Lauren Nicole Cipoletti’s Moaning Myrtle was just as she should be, although I was clueless about her weird persona, while Anthony Boyle’s Scorpius and Alex Price’s Draco, both London originals, left me unmoved.
Noma Dumezweni, David St. Louis. Photo: Manuel Harlan.
One final thought: reviewers have been asked not to give away how the play ends. Very understandable. However, on thinking back to the ending of this lengthy, complicated play, I can’t say I actually remember it, so I'm the last person who's going to give it away. If you really want to know, ask my granddaughter. 


Lyric Theatre
214 W. 43rd St., NYC
Open run


214 (2017-2018): Review: SAINT JOAN (seen April 27, 2018)

"Too Long, O Lord, Too Long"

For my review of Saint Joan please click on THE BROADWAY BLOG.

Friday, April 27, 2018

213 (2017-2018): Review: TRAVESTIES (seen April 26, 2018)

"The Importance of Being Stoppard"

Farce, high comedy, verbal pyrotechnics, and even dance and music mix delectably with volubly and voluminously recited ideas on art and political philosophy in Tom Stoppard’s Travesties, now being revived at the Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre.

This pitch-perfectly acted version, originally staged at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory under Patrick Marber’s brilliant direction, includes that production’s star, Tom Hollander, repeating his Olivier-nominated performance as Henry Carr. John Wood, who originated the role, won the Best Actor Tony for 1975-1976; given Hollander’s already being in the running for this season’s other awards, I can’t think of a stronger candidate for at least a nomination.

Stoppard’s 1974 play, which won the 1975-1976 Tony for Best Play, manages the rare feat of being both intellectually stimulating, visually appealing, and hilariously funny. Its premise is the enactment of the befuddled memories of the elderly Carr, recalling his days as British consul in Zurich, Switzerland, half a century earlier, in 1917, during World War I. 
We don’t meet Carr, though, until after a prologue-like scene set in the Zurich Public Library in 1917, where Stoppard introduces 1) the freethinking Romanian poet Tristan Tzara (Seth Numrich), a cofounder of the radical Dada movement, seeking to overthrow conventional notions of art; 2) Irish novelist James Joyce (Peter McDonald), writing his linguistically path-breaking novel, Ulysses; and 3) the Russian Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin (Dan Butler), seeking (with his wife, Nadya [Opal Alladin]) a way to sneak back into Russia. If you don’t have a chance to brush up on who these people were, the program offers helpful highlights.

Using the historically coincidental presence of these political and artistic revolutionaries in neutral Switzerland as his inspiration, Stoppard, with old Carr’s erratic memory as his filter and the Zurich library as common ground, imagines what might have happened had their paths crossed at this crucial moment in modern history. Carr loves to pontificate on his familiarity with these celebrated men, regardless of the real Carr’s having met only Joyce.

Most of the action is a flashback showing how the aged Carr remembers things. When he appears as his younger self, the play focuses on something that actually did happen. This is Carr’s performance as Algernon (“the other one,” he says when he can’t remember the name) in an amateur production presented by Joyce of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Carr, in fact, was involved in a law suit with Joyce over what he paid for his costumes.  
Wilde’s play serves as the framework for Carr’s memories (thus offering one reason for the title Travesties), in which his sister, Sophie (Sara Topham), is transmogrified into a librarian named Cecily, while the beautiful young woman serving as Joyce’s amanuensis is given the name Gwendolen (Scarlett Strallen). 
Carr and Tzara, who has a romance with Gwen, become the equivalents of Algie and Jack; Lenin and his wife the alternatives of Dr. Chasuble and Miss Prism; Carr’s butler, Bennett (Patrick Kerr), a stand-in for Earnest’s Merriman and Lane; and a manuscript mix-up a substitute for Wilde’s handbag.

Being a play based on faulty memories, the action often stops to rewind in “time slips” as a bell rings and a scene is redone from a different perspective, much as David Ives later did in one of the one-acts constituting his All in the Timing. 
Stoppard, born in Czechoslovakia, but nonetheless one of most awesome word magicians in the English language, uses a dizzying array of poetic and prosaic devices, including puns, alliteration, rhymes, literary quotations, limericks, historical writings, epigrams, and even vaudeville routines to tickle your ears and keep your head buzzing.

On a couple of occasions, the characters burst into delightfully executed song or dance (Polly Bennett is credited with “movement”), a highlight being an extended duologue between Cecily and Gwendolen set to the rhythm and tune of the famous old “Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean” vaudeville routine. A snippet :

CECILY: Oh, dear Miss Carr, oh dear Miss Carr,
Please remain exactly where you are
I beg you don’t get up—
GWEN (to Bennett): I think we’ll need another cup—
Pray sit down, Miss Carruthers . . .
CECILY: . . . So kind of you, Miss Carr.

Even with so much stage time taken up with philosophical debates about the meaning of art, the role of the artist in society, Marxist theory, revolutionary politics, and the like, you’re never quite sure just where on the spectrum of ideas Stoppard himself belongs. You just listen, catch as much as you can, and then, perhaps, go back again, prepared to pick up what you missed the first time around. 
Given the all-around skill and charm of this physically and verbally dexterous company—which I assumed was all-English until discovering its actors hail from England, Canada, and the USA—Stoppard’s potentially challenging comedy is as light as a soufflĂ© and perfectly accessible.
Marber has staged it dynamically, with speed, inventiveness, and variety, using a versatile set by Tim Hatley (who also did the lovely period costumes) that serves as both the library and Carr’s home. Its solid sections are separated with spaces that allow the actors to race in and out of their interstices as well as through the very solid doors. A closet-like structure upstage center provides surprise appearances while its upper part can be turned into a lectern or other scenic space. Neil Austin’s lighting and Adam Cork’s sound design and original music share the same creative spirit infusing everything in the production.
No fault can be found with any of the actors, each of whom has aria-like moments of exuberant excellence. McDonald, Butler, and Numrich are lookalike avatars of Joyce, Lenin, and Tzara, especially the first two. Numrich, on the other hand, demonstrates distinctively graceful physicality as the foppish, monocle-wearing Tzara. Alladin’s Nadya, who speaks many lines in Russian, is as imposing as Strallen and Topham are exquisitely appealing, while Kerr’s Bennet is every inch the snobbish, self-consciously superior servingman. Finally, Hollander’s Carr offers a tour de force of verbal clarity, comic timing, and physical expressivity.

I’m sorry I didn’t see Travesties when it first played on Broadway 43 years ago. And, aware of its difficulties, I was afraid its revival would prove something of a slog. What Marber and company have pulled off, however, makes a travesty of my reservations. Do yourself a favor and see it, not four decades from now.


American Airlines Theatre
227 W. 42nd St. NYC
Through June 17

Thursday, April 26, 2018

212 (2017-2018): Review: SUMMER: THE DONNA SUMMER MUSICAL (seen April 25, 2018)

“She Worked Hard for the Money”

Three huge disco balls wait patiently in place before dropping in late in the show to turn the Lunt-Fontanne into Studio 54 during its heyday and dazzle the revved up fanboys and fangirls at Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, Broadway’s latest contribution to the mounting list of pop-music jukebox musicals. As a cast of nearly two-dozen singer-dancer-musician-actors blast out “Last Dance,” led by three sequined performers representing the eponymous Disco Queen, only the folks in wheelchairs don’t rise to clap their hands and boogie in place. 
Storm Lever. Photo: Joan Marcus.
It’s a rousing conclusion to a determinedly energetic, if clichĂ©d and formulaic, 100-minute tribute to the life of Donna Summer, the sensationally successful diva. She was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines in Boston in 1948 but killed by lung cancer at 63 in 2012, Summer’s lengthy Wikipedia entry reveals a startling number of top-ranking songs and albums. Obviously, this condensed version of her life and greatest hits is highly selective.

Among the 23 numbers—during whose renditions the audience is invited to sing or even dance along—are “The Queen Is Back,” “I Feel Love,” “Love to Love You Baby,” “l Remember Yesterday,” “MacArthur Park,” “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough,” “On the Radio,” “She Works Hard for the Money,” “I Believe in Jesus,”  “Dim All the Lights,” “Hot Stuff,” and so on. Even “White Boys” from the musical Hair makes an entrance.
Ariana DeBose, LaChanze, Storm Lever. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Some tunes are sung only partially, others all the way through. Too bad Bill Brendle and Ron Melrose’s orchestrations have a ramped-up Broadway sound that makes several songs sound like hard-thumping variations of others.  A healthy assortment is performed to Sergio Trujillo’s slick choreography; most look like expensive music videos, an appropriate influence in this context. A welcome twist is having all the chorus dancers played by women, some of them cross-dressing.

Hair, you may know, played a major role in the young singer’s life when, as Sheila, she traveled to Germany in the early 70s with a touring version of the show. We learn this in the biographical interstices weaving the songs together in what is essentially a splashy concert.
Ariana Debose and company. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Three faultless, exceptional performers play Donna Summer: LaChanze, who serves as the linking narrator, and is a potent diva in her own right, serves as Diva Donna (Donna in her 50s), while the diminutive Storm Lever is Duckling Donna (Donna as a pre-teen) and Ariana DeBose is Disco Donna (Donna in her late teens and 20s), whose dancing chops are as outstanding as her vocal ones.

The sketchy dialogue scenes (book by Colman Domingo, Robert Cary, and director Des McAnuff) touch only the highlights of Summer’s life, much of it outlined in her 2003 autobiography, Ordinary Girl: The Journey. Occasionally, an applause-generating remark about women’s equality jumps out to show Summer’s commitment to that issue.

The script tracks her life from her teens (as one of seven siblings) to her death, turning her remarkable success story into a familiar succession of brief scenes, with her songs intended to somehow connect to them. Thus, for example, when record producer Neil Bogart (Drew Wildman Foster) dies, the next song we hear is “Dim All the Lights.”

We learn of Donna’s strict, churchgoing family’s resistance to the show business life she’s chosen (including her dropping out of high school just before graduating); her free-loving, European romances; her marriage to and divorce from Helmuth (Foster), the abusive Austrian who fathered her first daughter, then married and divorced her; her stable marriage to singer-songwriter Bruce Sudano (Jared Zirilli), father of two of her three daughters; her recording career, with the same record business complications all these bios seem to encounter; her financial setbacks; her use of “blue pills”; her rediscovering Jesus; her accomplishments as a painter; and her learning of the illness that would kill her.

It all plays out in Robert Brill’s open stage design, framed by an illuminated false proscenium on which place names speed by (often, too quickly) as the story shifts territory. Numerous square and rectangular units fly in and out displaying brightly colored, artfully designed projections (by Sean Niewenhuis), including the occasional eye, nose, or mouth (these come together neatly as a Summer’s portrait during “Last Dance”). Downstage, three square columns rise and fall on elevator traps with one or the other of the stars standing on them.
LaChanze. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Howard Binkley creates the dazzling lighting, and Paul Tazewell adds his Great White Way touch to the everyday clothes and the razzle dazzle of all the production numbers and glam diva costumes. It looks like a good time to be in the sequin business, just as it is for wigmakers like Charles G. LaPointe who have so many actors in multiple roles to cover. One can imagine the controlled chaos of backstage changes in an episodic show like this.

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is not destined to be a classic, nor is it even in the class of something similar, like Jersey Boys. Its critical reception has not been overwhelmingly positive. Surprisingly, two veteran critics I met before the show even told me they weren’t looking forward to it. I don’t know how they felt afterward but I, despite the show’s weaknesses, couldn’t prevent myself from liking it. My middle-aged daughter, the niche theatregoer the show is aiming at, loved it.
Ariana DeBose. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Donna Summer’s music may never have been intended for Broadway but, if you like her songs you’re going to have a good time. In the fall, another Broadway show based on a famous singer’s life and music will be upon us. It, too, will feature three women in the title role—someone named Cher.

Until then, two words: “Let’s Dance.”


Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
206 W. 46th St., NYC
Open run

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

211 (2017-2018): Review: CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD (seen April 24, 2018)

“Eyes for Ears; Hands for Voice”

Mark Medoff’s Children of a Lesser God, which won the Tony for Best Play of the 1978-79 season, was something of a breakthrough in that it used actual deaf or hearing-impaired actors to play characters with those conditions. When the late Phyllis Frelich (one of nine deaf siblings) won the Tony for her performance of Sarah Norman, she put paid to the tradition of hearing actors playing deaf-mute roles. Think, for example, of the title role in the 1940 play Johnny Belinda, the 1948 film of which earned hearing actress Jane Wyman an Oscar. 
Lauren Ridloff, Joshua Jackson. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
Sarah, the feisty, individualistic deaf character around whom the play is built, also boosted the career of another deaf actress, Marlee Matlin, who won the Oscar for her performance in the 1986 film version.

Director Kenny Leon’s clunky Broadway revival, which originated last year at the Berkshire Theater Group, introduces yet another passionately expressive deaf actress to the role in the person of Lauren Ridloff who, remarkably, has barely any acting experience. Her engaging performance is the chief reason to see this less than exciting revival of a play whose aging seams are showing.

Medoff’s play stresses the idea that many deaf people insist on being allowed to communicate on their own terms without having to conform to the ways of the hearing world. His chief specimens are Sarah, deaf from birth and unable/unwilling to either speak or (presumably) lip read, and her deaf friend, Orin Dennis (John McGinty, intense), a deaf rights activist, who can do both.
Joshua Jackson, Anthony Edwards, Lauren Ridloff. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
Sarah and Orin have known each other since childhood at a state school for the deaf, supervised by the businesslike Mr. Franklin (Anthony Edwards of “E.R.,” colorless). Sarah, 26, now works there as a maid as a way of staying in school while continuing to take some classes. For all Sarah’s deep intelligence, her estranged mother (Kecia Lewis, warmly maternal), whose home Sarah left at 18, once considered her “retarded.” It’s an assessment impossible to believe as having come from the woman Medoff has drawn.

Sarah becomes romantically involved with her thirtyish speech teacher, James Leeds (Joshua Jackson, “The Affair”), a relationship, down to its mildly forced kiss, that should give a 2018 audience a touch of the creepy crawlies. He, for his part, is dedicated to making deaf people become more like hearing ones, regardless of their objections. The resultant marriage between these unlikely lovers turns out to be less than they bargained for.
Lauren Ridloff, Joshua Jackson. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
James, in whose memory the episodic play unfolds, struggles to get the reluctant, even defiant Sarah to learn lip reading, which he believes will enable her to get into college or a trade school, thus becoming a productive participant in the hearing world. She, though, feels content with her own way of communicating, appreciating the world inside her silence; she also refuses to do anything she can’t do well.

James’s insistence on breaking through her barriers by teaching her to read lips helps justify all the scenes during which he both speaks to her audibly and via ASL, while also repeating aloud everything that Sarah conveys in sign language. When he speaks to Orin and another student, Lydia (Treshelle Edmond, sweet), he articulates carefully enough so they can read his lips.
Lauren Ridloff, Joshua Jackson. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
This is indeed a difficult task for Jackson, who handles its technical requirements unusually well; nonetheless, he isn’t able to make James either real or likable enough to overcome his dogged demands that Sarah overcome her well-grounded reluctance to speak. Moreover, the experience of hearing only his voice saying both James’s lines and Sarah’s grows thin as the monotony grows thicker. The delicate, graceful, sylph-like Ridloff, until the moment that Sarah shockingly breaks forth in awkward speech, must rely only on facial and physical expressions.

If you’ve ever seen a professional ASL signer interpret a speaking person’s words for a deaf audience you’ll know just how magnetically dramatic they can be. Imagine how even more compelling it can be to watch an attractive, fully invested deaf actress playing an emotionally fraught role, using only her face and hands.
Lauren Ridloff, Kecia Lewis. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
To further clarify what’s spoken, this production uses supertitles above the proscenium. Now and then, it’s confusing as to which words are James’s and which those of Sarah (when her thoughts aren’t simply designated as “she signs”). More disturbingly, audience members under the balcony at the orchestra’s rear can’t see the titles while those close to the stage have to look up uncomfortably, if they’re even able to see the words at all. Given Derek McLane’s abstract set of freestanding door frames and branchless tree trunks (prettily lit by Mike Baldassari), one wonders why the titles weren’t simply projected on the scenery, where everyone could see them. 
Children of a Lesser God. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
While most of the play’s various issues—many more than mentioned here—remain relevant, and a climactic argument toward the end is powerful, the dramaturgy too often creaks under the weight of exposition, artificially induced crises, or melodramatic circumstances (like the parental trauma James shares that helps tie him to Sarah’s emotional state). Some scenes, like when James climbs a tree to get into Sarah’s room, or when Lydia flirts outrageously with James, are awkward and unconvincing.
Lauren Ridloff, Joshua Jackson, Treshelle Edmond. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
The play’s focus on the hearing-disabled has inspired performances in many different languages. A Chinese director friend of mine has done two productions in China (I saw his fine 1991 version at the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre), and is planning a third, so Medoff’s children would appear to have many gods.
John McGinty, Julee Cerda, Lauren Ridloff. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
The title, by the way, is a quote from Tennyson: “For why is all around us here/As if some lesser god had made the world/But had not force to shape it as he would?” Perhaps the same could be asked of the play and this production.


Studio 54
254 W. 54th St., NYC
Open run