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  • Originally published 06/27/2014

    Husband vs. Wife, 1672 (Guess Who Wins?)

    The cast of Learned Ladies has hijacked the play, tossed it into the back of a horse drawn French carriage and roared off into the darkness with it.

  • Originally published 04/11/2014

    Fishing for Wives

    The Puzzled Japanese ‘Picture Brides’ of Hawaii in 1913

  • Originally published 04/11/2014

    Speakeasy Dollhouse

    Drinking with the Booth Brothers at the Start of Prohibition: Why did John Wilkes Really Shoot Abraham Lincoln?

  • Originally published 04/04/2014

    Hello Louie: Satchmo and His Horn Ride High Again

    In this scintillating new one man show, Armstrong, in his dressing room between Waldorf concerts, reminisces about his life and career over the tumult of racial history, rekindling sometimes bitter and sometimes sweet memories.

  • Originally published 12/20/2013

    Never Again

    Entertainment's continued interest in the Holocaust.

  • Originally published 08/09/2013

    1924 Leopold and Loeb Case: Murder Mania Returns

    Credit: Wiki Commons.Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two brilliant Chicago college students, have lived in infamy as the brutal slayers of 14 year old Bobby Franks in 1924, a student whom they kidnapped and murdered just to prove that they could commit the perfect crime.The pair planned the murder for seven months. They were certain they could get away with it because they believed they were “supermen” and were smarter than everyone else. They abducted Franks after school. He was beaten to death and dumped in a culvert near a Chicago area lake. Then the kidnappers sent a letter to his millionaire father demanding ransom. They did not know that the body had already been found; no ransom was paid.

  • Originally published 07/14/2013

    The Real Housewives of London

    Fallen Angels Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey 36 Madison Ave, Madison, NJ Madison, New JerseyThe Real Housewives of New Jersey, Beverly Hills, New York, Orange County and the rest of those shows are rank amateurs at sex, lying, deceit, treachery, materialism and greed compared to the London housewives in Noel Coward’s outrageously funny play Fallen Angels, which opened in 1925.The rollicking play about sexuality in tepid old London town in the middle of the Roaring Twenties opened last weekend at the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey and this hilarious new production is so bright and refreshing that it could have been written by Coward last Tuesday. It could be lifted, whole, and used as a Real Housewives episode.

  • Originally published 07/14/2013

    Country Matters in Elizabethan England

    As You Like It Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey 36 Madison Ave, Madison, NJ Drew UniversityAll is not well in the city where William Shakespeare’s As You Like It begins. The play, written in 1599, now running at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, charts the problems of urban life as cities grow, often without much order, in contrast to the increasingly inviting green retreats of the rural countryside. Within this conflict is the romance between Orlando, a frustrated younger brother in a powerful family, and the lovely Rosalind, a Duke’s daughter.Separately, the pair flees the city and seeks out the solitude of the Forest of Arden, with its thick clusters of trees, meandering streams and cast of characters. Rosalind disguises herself as a man so that she can keep an eye on Orlando, who is smitten with her as a girl. They are one of several pairs of lovers in the forest. The play is simple and relies on its director and actors to make it interesting. They do. As You Like It is impressive.

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    King Kong Takes Manhattan... Yet Again.

    We all remember King Kong, the lovable big ape from Skull Island, in the last scenes of the 1933 black and white movie, which mesmerized Depression audiences. He was on stage at a Broadway theater, ripping apart his manacles and getting ready to romp through Times Square in search of his true love, Anne Darrow, who, he thought, had a thing for gorillas.Now King Kong is back yet again. Last week, a new musical based on the 1933 Kong Kong movie opened in Melbourne, Australia, and will play through the end of August. If it does well, the talk is that the play will head to Broadway in 2014. Kong will be back home, lumbering through the canyons of New York and trying to swat planes from the top of the Empire State Building.What is the magic of the King Kong story, still successful in this fading recession, eighty years later? Americans have always loved exotic beasts from the past, but none have captured our hearts like King Kong.

  • Originally published 06/09/2013

    Very Far from Heaven in 1957 Connecticut

    Far From Heaven Playwrights Horizon 416 W. 42nd Street New York, N.Y.Fans of the 2002 movie Far from Heaven will flock to the play version of the story, which just opened at Playwrights Horizon in New York. This time the work is a stage musical, not a drama, but the play has much of the same punch as the movie. It is emotional, troubling story of the underbelly of life in quiet Connecticut, in 1957 America, just before the Civil Rights movement gained steam and long before the gay rights movement caught fire.

  • Originally published 06/09/2013

    "Playboy of the Western World" Misses the Party

    Playboy of the Western World Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey Drew University Madison, N.J.In the novel The Great Gatsby, partygoers at Jay Gatsby’s elegant mansion are thrilled to hear a rumor that Gatsby had killed a man. In their champagne drenched eyes, a killer was a hero.In the play and movie Chicago, murderesses Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly are turned into singing, dancing heroines in the middle of the Roaring Twenties because they killed the men in their lives.In Playboy of the Western World, by J.M. Synge, which just opened at the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey, residents of a small village in Ireland in 1907 treat their odd visitor, young Christy Mahon, as a God when he announces with triumphal glee that he has just murdered his father. Men see him as an admirable character and women go crazy over him.

  • Originally published 05/27/2013

    Hooray for Bollywood

    Bunty Berman Presents Theater Row 410 W. 42nd Street New York, N.Y.Business is grim for Bunty Berman Productions in Bombay. His latest 1950s Bollywood film was a colossal flop, nine of his other movies cannot be completed because he is nearly bankrupt, his longtime star is getting old and overweight and the critics are ready to bury him.Does Bunty, a huge figure in Indian cinema, give up? No. Singing and dancing, he and his Bollywood friends assure all that they will, as their song goes, “make a movie” and win back the hearts in Indian filmgoers.Bunty Berman Presents is that story. The new play by British Pakistani writer Ayub Khan Din, author of Rafta, Rafta, starts off slowly, but after half an hour or so becomes a charming musical that not only pleases the audience, but gives them lot of history about Indian cinema, which has grown in America in the last decade or so.

  • Originally published 05/05/2013

    Who are You Calling Nancy Boy?

    The ‘nance,’ or Nancy Boy, was a gay burlesque character from the 1930s who brought guffaws and belly laughs as he pranced about the stage, creating campy scenes and sketches of gay life. He put on an outrageous show and audiences loved him. In the late 1930s, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, fearful of how the lurid burlesque shows would make his city look in the upcoming World’s Fair of 1939, cracked down on the houses.Part of LaGuardia’s anger was aimed at the Nance, whom critics said created audiences of lusty gay men having sex in the dark balconies of the burlesque emporiums. It was an outrage, the Mayor said, and police began swooping down on burlesque shows, closing many and forcing others to drop the nance act or greatly curb it.The Nance, that just opened in New York, is the very funny, deeply emotional, and winning, story about that crackdown.

  • Originally published 05/03/2013

    A Loving Trip Back to a Different America

    The Trip to Bountiful Stephen Sondheim Theater 146 W. 43rd Street New York, N.Y.How many of us would like to take a trip to our own historic Bountiful, the town where we grew up and raised our children, but a town that has, over the years, receded far into our memory?That’s what aging Carrie Watts wants to do in Horton Foote’s sixty-year-old story about 1947 Texas, The Trip to Bountiful, a charming, splendid play about a woman in one era in Texas history returning to another.Carrie, a delightful old woman, lives with her last child, middle-aged Ludie, and his pushy wife, Jessie Mae, in a cramped two-room apartment in Houston. She yearns to return to the town near the Gulf of Mexico where she grew up, Bountiful, a place she has not seen in more than twenty years. She just wants to go back for a visit and tour the streets that she loved as a child and young woman.

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    Old Jews Telling Jokes

    Old Jews Telling JokesWestside Theater 407 W. 43rd Street New York, N.Y.For generations, the Borscht Belt was the capital of humor in the United States. The Borscht Belt was the chain of resort hotels in New York State’s Catskill Mountains, just a ninety-minute drive from New York City. It was its own ocomic nation in the 1940s and ‘50s.Many of the top comedians performing there -- not to mention most of the audience -- were Jewish (hence the name, as most New York Jews came from eastern Europe). The highlight of these comic routines were well plotted and perfectly timed stories about Jewish, and urban, life in America.They were hysterical.Now the whole country gets a chance to hear the old stories that rattled the funny bones of Americans for generation in Old Jews Telling Jokes, an hilarious historic review of the old stories that just opened at New York’s Westside Theater. It is one of the funniest shows to debut in New York in decades.

  • Originally published 04/08/2013

    Paying Tribute to the Master of Suspense

    Radiotheatre: The Alfred Hitchcock FestivalUnder St. Marks Theater94 St. Marks PlaceNew York, N.Y.The Under St. Marks Theater is really under St. Marks, laying beyond a narrow door, down a dozen or more old stone steps through a dark tunnel -- a very small, very dark, and very foreboding theater. It is, in short, a perfect place for the new Alfred Hitchcock Theater Festival, which features radio plays based on Hitchcock film classics such as Rebecca, Strangers on a Train, Suspicion and 39 Steps.

  • Originally published 03/29/2013

    A Murky Look Back at the 1969 Stonewall Riots and Gay History

    Hit the Wall Barrow Street Theater 27 Barrow Street New York, N.Y.On the hot, humid evening of June 27, 1969, undercover police at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City's Greenwich Village, alerted their superiors that it was ripe for a raid. Hours later, eight police officers arrived and plunged into the crowd of some two hundred men and women in the bar. The paddy wagons arrived late and those charged stood outside on the hot street. The revelers who had not been arrested came back to see what was going on as the tide of people grew. Neighbors and patrons at other bars, seeing the angry crowd, walked out on to the street, too, and joined it. Shouts and threats were yelled, the people spilled into the busy street and traffic was jammed for blocks. When the police vans finally did arrive, a full scale riot broke out. Gay men threw empty garbage cans at the cops and the police responded by clubbing dozens. Blood flowed. The riots over the Stonewall raid continued for several days. They were highly publicized and the event was said to be one of the places where the American gay rights movement started.

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    The 1905 "Bloody Sunday" Showdown in Russia

    NevaNew York Public Theater425 Lafayette StreetNew York, N.Y.If you can sit through the dreadfully dull and dreary first thirty minutes of Neva, Chilean writer Guillermo Calderon’s drama about the January 22, 1905 massacre that later brought about the 1905 revolution in Russia, you will see a pretty good play.The start of the short play, which opened last week, finds two actors in St. Petersburg greeting their new acting company colleague, Olga Knipper, the widow of recently buried Russian writing great Anton Chekhov. She has come to the jewel of Russia to re-start her acting career. The trio talks about the work they are doing and it is casually mentioned that the tsar’s troops have shot down several thousand street protestors, killing about a thousand of them, in another part of town. No one pays much attention and the play rehearsal drones on, endlessly. There does not seem to be any point to it beyond reminding people that Chekhov’s wife had talent, too.

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Breakfast at Tiffany’s -- Send It Back

    Breakfast at Tiffany’sCort Theater138 W. 48th StreetNew York, N.Y.Emilia Clarke as Holly Golightly.Anyone sitting in the Cort Theater in New York waiting for Breakfast at Tiffany’s to begin enjoys a wonderful montage of paintings and photographs of the city during World War II to remind you that the play is set in 1943. After ten or fifteen minutes of this luscious buildup, you are ready for a memorable play.You don’t get one, though. You should send Breakfast at Tiffany’s back to the kitchen and try another restaurant.The stage version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, adapted for the theater by Richard Greenberg and based on the incredibly successful 1961 movie starring Audrey Hepburn, has lost its luster. The executives at Tiffany’s should ask that they rename the play Lunch at Cartier’s

  • Originally published 02/15/2013

    A Mediocre Evening with Sir Isaac Newton

    Isaac’s Eye Ensemble Studio Theater 549 W. 52nd Street New York, N.Y.Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in plays about historical inventors actually told you what was accurate and what was invented? Well, in Isaac’s Eye, a play about philosopher/mathematician Isaac Newton that just opened in New York, they do. A narrator comes out and tells you what is fact and what is fiction and true parts of the plot are written on the blackboards on the walls of the theater. So now you can sit back and enjoy a play about the great man who invented Calculus and figured out motion and gravity, right?No. Isaac’s Eye is a tedious play that tells very little about history. It's ostensibly set in 1665, but all the characters dress and talk as if it took place last Thursday. The single-set story takes place in what looks like a laboratory or classroom, plus lots of chalk to write on the walls.

  • Originally published 02/08/2013

    Shakespeare's historic war plays to be produced on battlefields across the country

    Shakespeare's Globe will perform the bard's three Henry VI plays at historic battle sites of the Wars of the Roses.As part of its new season, the theatre will stage the plays at Towton, Tewkesbury, St Albans and Barnet, which were all sites where battles took place.The plays – billed under their original titles: Harry The Sixth, The Houses of York and Lancaster and The True Tragedy of the Duke of York – will be directed by Nick Bagnall and embark on a tour from June 26 until September 26....