Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville Lead a Hard-Run ‘Long Day’s Journey’ Review REVIEWS

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Synopsis: 

And they’re off! It’s an exciting day in this sleepy Connecticut harbor town, folks, as the fighting Tyrones bolt from the starting line as if there were a pack of demons at their backs.

That’s because there is a pack of demons at their backs. I did say their name is Tyrone, right? Which means the odds of this hard-working home team outstripping their nasty pursuers are, exactly, nil. That doesn’t keep the scrappy marathoners from acting as fast as they can.

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‘Dance Nation,’ the Power and the Terror of Girls at 13 Review REVIEWS

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Whether you admit it or not, your 13-year-old self is still living somewhere inside you like a feral demon-child whispering in the dark. It is a creature of frightening extremes, this being you once were: more hopeful and hopeless, joyous and despairing, loving and hateful than you have ever been since. Most likely, she or he is someone you try to avoid talking to.

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When the ‘Light Shining’ on Revolution Falters Review REVIEWS

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Synopsis: 

Theater is a collaboration but not usually a commune. That may help explain why Caryl Churchill’s “Light Shining in Buckinghamshire” — which she wrote, in 1976, after a three-week workshop with actors helping to develop the characters and scenes — is the first of her plays I’ve found indulgent and leaden. However wonderful it may be to perform, it’s a hard slog to sit through.

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Building the Wall (Not That One) in Aristophanes’ ‘The Birds’ Review REVIEWS

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And you thought the fine-feathered avengers from that Alfred Hitchcock movie were scary. Wait until you get a load of the title characters of another classic called “The Birds,” especially once they start exercising their right to bear arms.

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‘A Brief History of Women,’ an Alan Ayckbourn Comedy of Tragedies Review REVIEWS

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“As funny as a heart attack,” goes the phrase, and it is generally used to indicate anything but merriment. But a change of context can work wonders with a familiar figure of speech. If you were to say “as funny as a heart attack in an Alan Ayckbourn play,” you would mean that a situation is so painfully, awkwardly sad that it is downright hilarious.

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Does Power Corrupt in ‘Henry V’? Absolutely Review REVIEWS

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Shakespeare worried — or pretended to worry — about whether the “wooden O” of the Globe Theater could house a pivotal battle. The director Robert O’Hara has only 12 square feet of carpet to work with in his swift, sometimes stumbling production of “Henry V” for the Public Theater’s Mobile Unit.

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‘Transfers’ and the Anguished Art of the College Interview Review REVIEWS

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Their lives, the young men insist, should not be reduced to stories, to the sort of sentimental or sensational anecdotes that might captivate a college admissions office. The anxious heroes of Lucy Thurber’s “Transfers” are boys from the Bronx who find themselves amid the manicured groves of a New England campus, and they understandably bristle at the prospect of being packaged and sold as novelties in an ivory-tower world.

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‘Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,’ a Pop Star’s Life as Victory Parade Review REVIEWS

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LONDON — All biographical musicals build to a climactic mini-concert, but I’ve rarely heard an audience greet one with the mighty roar that looks likely to be a continuing feature of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” which opened Tuesday at the Aldwych Theater here.

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Matthew Broderick Finds His Inner Satan in ‘The Seafarer’ Review REVIEWS

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The Devil wears Matthew Broderick in the Irish Repertory Theater’s production of “The Seafarer,” Conor McPherson’s wonderful 2006 play about a brimstone-scented Christmas Eve in Dublin. And no, Mr. Broderick has not, to my knowledge, created a clothing line.

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In the Hotel in ‘Zürich,’ Room Service Comes With a Bang Review REVIEWS

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“Very nice and clean,” says the pretty maid with the artificial smile, speaking with the scripted sunniness of a corporate employee. She is talking about both the antiseptic-looking hotel room she is tidying and the country, Switzerland, in which it is located.

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Review: An Elephant’s Ghost Stalks the World in ‘Mlima’s Tale’ Review REVIEWS

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Those of you who don’t believe in ghosts are likely to think again after seeing “Mlima’s Tale,” Lynn Nottage’s beautiful, endlessly echoing portrait of a murder and its afterlife. In this taut, elegantly assembled production, which opened on Sunday night at the Public Theater, a magnificent specter stalks this planet, contaminating the lives of everyone he encounters.

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On the Road With Mom in ‘Miss You Like Hell’ Review REVIEWS

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High school harpies, semi-animated cartoons and Bechdel test flunk-outs: Such are the uninspiring female characters populating most of this season’s new Broadway musicals.

So the first thing to say about “Miss You Like Hell,” which opened on Tuesday at the Public Theater, is that it offers two seriously rich roles for women, each with important things worth singing about.

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‘This Flat Earth’ Traces Childhood Fears No Parent Can Allay Review REVIEWS

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The time, it seems, has finally arrived for a certain father-daughter talk, the kind of conversation that parents dread. But for Dan, a single dad, and Julie, a very unworldly 13-year-old, the subject isn’t the awkward Topic A that has fueled so many frantic scenes in sitcoms.

It’s not the mysteries of sex that are on Julie’s mind. What this particular teenager is demanding is that her father explain why school shootings happen and why grown-ups can’t do anything about them.

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‘Aloha, Aloha, or When I Was Queen’ Takes On the Cringeworthy Review REVIEWS

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“Throw a scone,” Eliza Bent says, “and you will hit a white person who has had a brush with appropriation.”

Cultural appropriation, that is — the practice of borrowing from cultures less powerful than one’s own, in the process often trampling blithely, if unwittingly, on sensitivities.

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In ‘Feeding the Dragon,’ an Enchanted Home Inside a Library Review REVIEWS

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For library lovers and assorted bibliophiles, the set of Sharon Washington’s solo show, “Feeding the Dragon,” at the Cherry Lane Theater, is a geeky pleasure — long, neat rows of colorful books; card catalogs along the edges; big multipaned windows above gleaming hardwood floors. To anyone who feels most at home surrounded by things to read, it feels like an invitation: Want to hear a story? Yes, please.

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An Impresario of ‘Fire and Air’ (if He Does Say So Himself) Review REVIEWS

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There is no credit for choreography in the Classic Stage Company production of “Fire and Air,” which is strange because it’s basically a biography of Sergei Diaghilev.

You will recall — and if you don’t, the playwright, Terrence McNally, will repeatedly inform you — that Diaghilev, working with his protégé and lover Nijinsky, was the great impresario of modern ballet as it emerged from the fairy-filled mists of the Romantic era. “I invented the 20th century,” Mr. McNally’s Diaghilev says humbly.

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‘He Brought Her Heart Back,’ Adrienne Kennedy’s Beautiful Nightmare Review REVIEWS

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They are at their exquisite peak, this boy and girl stepping through the shadows. They are far enough from childhood to be fully formed but not yet coarsened by adulthood, as delicate of limb and feature as mantelpiece figurines. Only the slight differences in the shades of their perfect skins suggest they are not a matched set.

If you’re thinking that anyone this fine and fragile is destined to be shattered, you are right. You need only listen to what they’re saying, in hypnotic Southern accents to realize that whatever exists between them, it doesn’t have a chance of survival in the early 1940s.

 

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Anna Chlumsky and Adam Pally Paint the Town Red in ‘Cardinal’ Review REVIEWS

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Great ideas are not always good ones, as the characters in Greg Pierce’s new play, “Cardinal,” learn.

The great idea in this case is Lydia’s. A sparkler of a young woman who has been burned a few times, Lydia (Anna Chlumsky) returns from a life in Brooklyn to her depressed Rust Belt hometown with dreams of saving it from further disintegration. Already the population has declined by 50 percent since her school days there.

 

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Blue Man Group Shows a Sense of Fun at Astor Place Theater Review REVIEWS

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The lights in the theater’s entryway turn us all blue as soon as we walk through the door. That’s kind of charming, and so is the ridiculously upbeat song playing on speakers in the lobby bathrooms. The main lyric is the word bathroom, over and over. And over.

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In ‘Engagements,’ Meet Me in the Gazebo for Spite and Hauteur Review REVIEWS

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If there’s anyone you definitely do not want at a party celebrating your coming wedding, it’s the mean-girl central character in “Engagements,” a bitingly funny but overly sour comedy by Lucy Teitler that opened on Thursday at the McGinn/Cazale Theater as part of Second Stage Theater’s Uptown summer series.

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A Journey Through Uncharted Waters in ‘Men on Boats’ Review REVIEWS

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If summer has you hankering for fitness-testing excursions through the dangerous outdoors, you will surely want to spend time with the hearty title characters of “Men on Boats.”

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A Vonnegut Madman Tangled in Thickets of Dark Satire Review REVIEWS

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As a drunken and possibly lunatic millionaire, Santino Fontana gives a performance of ineffable sweetness in “Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” an odd duck of a musical by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken that’s being presented as the final entry in City Center Encores! Off-Center summer season. As he bumbles through the thickets of picaresque plot in this doggedly weird satire, Mr. Fontana maintains an air of almost saintly purity, portraying a man seeking purpose and finding it in a most un-American pursuit: giving away all of his millions.

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‘Golem,’ a Visually Dazzling Fable for the Digital Age Review REVIEWS

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Who, or what, is really in charge of our destiny? We like to believe that our will, our imagination, our reason are meticulously clicking away, taking hold of the future and shaping it to our desires. But what about that little companion in our pocket we consult so regularly, with its innumerable little helpers that we refer to dozens if not hundreds of times a day, attending to their chirps and beeps and rings as if to a relentless taskmaster?

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On the High Seas, Anything Goes in ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ Review REVIEWS

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It’s hard to imagine more ideal summer entertainment than the exhilarating production of “The Pirates of Penzance” swashbuckling across the stage — and often tumbling merrily off it — at the Barrington Stage Company here. Rarely have I felt an audience and a cast coming together in such a happy communal bear hug. And we could all use one right now, no?

This superbly realized production is directed by John Rando and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse, who teamed up for “On the Town,” which was first seen at Barrington Stage before moving to Broadway. It embraces an anything-goes spirit that is both in keeping with the distinctive silliness of Gilbert and Sullivan at their best, and establishes its own brand of inspired goofing. (There’s even a little “Brexit” joke at the finale.)

The production uses the revised version of the operetta originally presented by the Public Theater in Central Park, back in 1980, before moving to Broadway, with Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith and Kevin Kline in the central roles, and directed by Wilford Leach.

On this occasion, for more modest star power, we have Will Swenson (“Hair” and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” among other Broadway shows), perhaps never better cast than he is here as the Pirate King. Mr. Swenson’s swarthy good looks are matched here with a sexy pirate swagger, but he’s also in possession of a powerful baritone.

Most important, he has such an assured natural comic flair that even the raising of an eyebrow — or, in one delightful bit, the donning of an eye patch — becomes the stuff of belly laughs. A few audience members are seated onstage, and Mr. Swenson’s jovial joshing with them (including a reference to his “pirate booty”) is handled with just the right smiling lewdness.

While they may not be as familiar, the rest of the principals are equally terrific. Where has the fabulous Scarlett Strallen, who plays the ingénue, Mabel, been hiding herself? She hasn’t really been pining in obscurity, but has been performing mostly in her native Britain, although she also appeared in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” on Broadway.

A lyric soprano with a voice as flexible as it is rich, she is also a fine actress whose instinctive feel for the Gilbert and Sullivan ingénue idiom — play it straight with just a sly wink peeking out from the batting eyelashes — makes her every scene and song a joy.

One of two numbers interpolated from other Gilbert and Sullivan shows, “Sorry Her Lot,” from “H.M.S. Pinafore,” is a solo for Mabel. A half-dozen more could have been added — and the full mad scene from “Lucia di Lammermoor” (which is mildly spoofed in the score), for good measure — and I wouldn’t have complained.

As the conscience-stricken pirate Frederic, apprenticed by mistake to the band of brigands by his adoring nursemaid (you’ll recall she was meant to put him in service to a pilot), Kyle Dean Massey, recently on the TV series “Nashville” but also in Broadway’s “Pippin,” has the square-jawed handsomeness and boyish virility that suit the role. His light tenor is not large, but it’s nimble and it suits the squeaky-clean nature of the good-hearted Frederic nicely, as does his throbbing earnestness as he switches his allegiance from his pirate crew to the bumbling bobbies trying to capture them, and back again.

The veteran David Garrison imparts the Major-General, the father of a brood of capering lovelies, including Mabel, with a dithery pomposity. The litmus test for any actor in this part — and, in Gilbert and Sullivan in general to a degree — is an ability to twist the tongue around the dense lyrics set to beat-the-clock tempos in their dizzyingly fun patter songs. Perhaps the most famous of all is “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General,” and Mr. Garrison passes with flags flying.

Rounding out the principal roles with equal polish is another supremely good stage veteran, the British-born Jane Carr as Frederic’s devoted Ruth. (Ms. Carr was also in “Gentleman’s Guide.”) Ruth’s attempts at acting the demure would-be bride of her young charge are delightfully funny — a nice deadpan glance to the audience at the mention of her being “middle-aged” — but she also brings a bustling maternal warmth to the role that fits it snugly.

Mr. Bergasse’s zesty choreography keeps the cast in almost constant, exuberant motion. Among the highlights are the dances for the policemen set to capture the pirates, led with aplomb by the excellent Alex Gibson. Clearly these fellows, who twitch and squirm at the thought of the dangerous duties before them, would much rather kick up their heels and risk a hamstring injury than scratch so much as a pinkie finger chasing seafaring miscreants.

The staging, on a set by Beowulf Boritt that deftly switches from the deck of the pirate ship to the estate of the Major-General for the second act, takes full advantage of the auditorium. A narrow platform stretching into the audience brings us closer to the fun, as when the pirates steal upon the Major-General’s mansion, with their catlike tread, hissing “meow” and admonishing the audience to shush.

Remaining silent, however, is not an option at this buoyant production, which had me giggling with delight more or less from silly start to silly finale. Mr. Rando, long an expert in comedy with a specialty in delirious zaniness, liberally sprinkles the staging with frisky bits of business that wouldn’t be fair to spoil. Any reviewer so foolhardy as to describe them in detail would deserve to walk the plank.

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Homeless Teenagers, Strutting and Seething in ‘Runaways’ Review REVIEWS

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Synopsis: 

They’re tearing up the air at New York City Center, where a pulsing reincarnation of Elizabeth Swados’s “Runaways” is testifying to the atomic power of adolescent angst. This blast of undiluted teen spirit, which opened Wednesday night as the first offering in the Encores! Off-Center summer season, is guaranteed to leave you feeling windblown, hyped up and ready to race through the most torpid summer night.

“Eeney meeney gipsaleeny,” sings the cast in the opening number, as kids of — and dressed in — many colors rush down the aisles at such speed that you don’t even see them until after they’ve passed. “Ooh aah coombaleeny/Ooh mamacha cucaracha.”

The words don’t make a lot of sense. Yet they have the jagged clarity of broken glass. Rendered in English, Spanish, sign language and gobbledygook, the dialogue and lyrics of “Runaways” are the universal vernacular of people trapped in that most painful of limbos, the period between childhood and adulthood.

You probably remember what that was like, though it’s more comfortable not to. The state inhabited by the title characters of “Runaways,” directed by Sam Pinkleton, is one of unbounded energy and a matching capacity to reach the outer limits of emotions. People feel irredeemably lost at that age to begin with; just imagine what it’s like if they’re also homeless.

First presented at the cabaret at the Public Theater in 1978 before transferring to Broadway for a seven-month run, “Runaways” is a group portrait of homeless youth etched in 200-proof adrenaline. Ms. Swados, who died in January at 64, spent months researching the lives of homeless children and adolescents and wove their stories into a brightly mixed musical collage that spoke the languages of pop-rock, salsa and reggae, with rhythmic chants that summon both the nursery verse of generations past and the hip-hop of the future.

When it opened, “Runaways” seemed to bear definite familial resemblances to other unorthodox hit musicals to have emerged from the Public. Like “A Chorus Line” (1975), which revealed the intimate back stories of auditioning Broadway dancers, it turned true confessions into song and dance.

And in portraying a tribal urban culture that lived by its own counter-conventional rules, Ms. Swados’s story of life on the streets brought to mind the confrontational antics of the mid-1960s classic of hippiedom, “Hair.” (That musical’s trippy idealism by the way, comes in for some delicious dissing in “Runaways.”)

Of those three shows, “Runways” would have seemed to be the least promising candidate for successful revival. I never saw it in its first version, but everything I read about it suggested that it was a caring, earnest piece of social work set to song and lodged immovably in its own time.

What I hadn’t realized was how well Ms. Swados, who in 1978 was in her mid-20s, had captured the rampaging moodiness of what it means to be young and unmoored in a drifting culture. If you think about it, teenagers naturally have many of the essential elements of what it takes to be a musical star — electric energy, exposed nerve endings and a bottomless appetite for attention.

Matthew Gumley, center, in “Runaways” at City Center. Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Ms. Swados wasn’t the first theater artist to realize this. (Think back to Depression-era stage frolics like “Babes in Arms”). But she may have been the first to harness the anger in that particular energy without sentimentality or condescending cuteness.

The title characters of “Runaways,” who include dope addicts, con artists and streetwalkers, may have seemed exotic on one level to the middle-aged parents in the audience. But the sense of bearing a grudge against the whole adult world, the fears of entering that world, the daily hyperkinetic emotional spirals — those elements would have been familiar to anyone with teenagers in the house. And so they remain.

Mr. Pinkleton and the choreographer, Ani Taj, who both studied under Ms. Swados at New York University, let the young cast’s natural energy rip without descending into chaos. This is a formidable achievement when you consider the ensemble’s size (25) and age range (mostly between 12 and 19).

While Mr. Pinkleton allows each cast member to emerge as an individual, he also knows that his performing team’s strength is in its union. Seen moving with the stealth and fleetness of subway rats amid a stage furnished with discarded couches and more portable detritus (Donyale Werle did the set, and the neon costumes are by Clint Ramos), the characters do not give us anything like the mini-autobiographies provided in “A Chorus Line.”

You sense that many of the solos and soliloquies here could just as easily be performed by most of the other cast members. What “Runaways” is going for is a group mentality, a gathering of injured souls who merge into one vital, hungry, desperate voice.

The specific forms these voices assume are eclectic, but they’re all pitched at a level of wounded rage that begs to be heard and despairs of that ever happening. There’s a reason that the show begins with a young woman (Ren) speaking in sign language (translated into speech by Siena Rafter). “I don’t speak their language, and they don’t speak mine,” she says of her parents.

A boy (Sam Poon) delivers a class report on current events in which the grimmest of the day’s headlines bleed into synoptic accounts of a violent home life. One girl (Frenie Acoba) performs willfully botched surgery on a Troll doll, while another (Ripley Sobo) chillingly describes smashing her parent’s television screen to get their (brutal) attention.

The songs, accompanied by a throbbing onstage band led by Chris Fenwick, find the natural dissonance in sweet melody and vice versa. Percussion is heavy, yet the keyboard is often music-box light.

Voices, no matter how triumphantly loud and melismatic, always come with an ache. An addict’s lullaby is ragged and gentle, while a bouncy ode to felonious enterprise sends the cast swarming into the aisles, seemingly to dismantle City Center.

Only some of the period references — and the lack of cellphones onstage — remind us that “Runaways” originated nearly 40 years ago. Otherwise, a world in which grown-up behavior seems inexplicable, alienating and anything but grown-up feels all too close to ours.

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Hadestown OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
  • NY TIMES

  • Opening Night:
    May 23, 2016
    Closing:
    July 3, 2016

    Theater: NY Theatre Workshop / 79 East 4th Street, New York, NY, 10003

    Synopsis: 

    With Hadestown, celebrated singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and inventive two-time Obie award-winning director Rachel Chavkin (Three Pianos; Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812) transform Mitchell's "phenomenal concept album" (Rolling Stone) into a bold new work for the stage. This folk opera follows Orpheus' mythical quest to overcome Hades and regain the favor of his one true love, Eurydice. Together we travel from wide open plains where love and music are not enough nourishment to survive the winter, down to Hadestown, an industrialized world of mindless labor and full stomachs. Inspired by traditions of classic American folk music and vintage New Orleans jazz, Mitchell's beguiling melodies and poetic imagination pit nature against industry, faith against doubt, and love against death.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Hadestown

    ‘Hadestown’ Reanimates a Well-Known Myth

    Charles Isherwood

    May 23, 2016: “It’s a sad song, but we sing it anyway.” We certainly do. The words refer to the classic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, which has been told and retold — sung and resung, danced and filmed — over the centuries in many genres and styles. Now it has become a folk opera, “Hadestown,” by the gifted singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, which opened on Monday at New York Theater Workshop in a gorgeously sung, elementally spare production directed by and developed with Rachel Chavkin (“Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”).

    READ THE REVIEW

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