This Week on Stage: The Nine-Show Supersized Edition!

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Image Credit: Joan Marcus

With the Drama Desk nominations newly-minted, and Tony nominations being announced on Tuesday, we are in full-swing for year-end theater awards mania. And EW’s writers have been busy as bees getting out the last gasp of reviews from the 2013-2014 season, with no less than nine shows opening in the past week. Some themes are definitely emerging. We got men in ladies’ attire (Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, above, and Casa Valentina), men’s exposed buttocks (Alan Cumming in Cabaret, Nick Offerman in Annapurna), and sassy leading women who won’t take no for an answer (Estelle Parsons in The Velocity of Autumn, Sutton Foster in Violet). A little something for everyone! (Click on the links below for full reviews)

Annapurna  Real-life marrieds Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally stray from their comic personas to tackle a one-act, two-character drama about an ailing poet reconnecting with his ex-wife in a filthy trailer in the Rockies. Jessica Shaw found the stage pairing of Offerman and Mullally to be a fruitful one: “[Playwright Sharr] White’s dialogue pops, especially when the extraordinary Offerman adroitly hops from desperate to lovestruck to angry to devastated.” EW grade: B+

Cabaret  Melissa Rose Bernardo checked in on the 2014 revival of the much-loved and Tony-adorned Sam Mendes/Rob Marshall-helmed tuner, to see if Alan Cumming (reprising his awarded Emcee role) and Broadway newbie Michelle Williams are keeping things fresh 16 years later. “Mendes and Marshall’s deglammed portrait of Weimer-era Germany remains dangerously seductive-as does Cumming…even so, some luster has been lost in the Kit Kat Klub.” EW grade: B+

Casa Valentina  Harvey Fierstein’s newest chronicles a real-life 1960s resort in which men, often heterosexual, casually lived out their desire to dress and act as women, with ace cast including Reed Birney (House of Cards), Gabriel Ebert (Tony winner for Matilda) and Mare Winningham (Mildred Pierce). Senior writer Adam Markovitz found much to praise in an unevenly conceived play: “the most lasting impressions of Casa Valentina are good ones: Fierstein’s meticulous dialogue, Joe Mantello’s smooth and confident direction, the cast’s flawless performances. And if the characters teach us anything, it’s that confidence and charm can cover a multitude of imperfections.” EW grade: B+

The Cripple of Inishmaan  Daniel Radcliffe returns for a third time to the Great White Way-and hopes for his first Tony nod-as the physically disabled boy of the title who wishes to get into the pictures when an 1930s American movie crew invades his Irish hometown. Senior editor Thom Geier deems it “exquisite and often uproarious”, with kudos for the Harry Potter alum. “Daniel Radcliffe plays Billy with a crafty mix of guile and vulnerability.” EW grade: A

The Great Immensity  The NYC-based social conscience collective/musical troupe known as The Civilians tackle the behemoth topic of climate change in their newest downtown offering at the Public. But my review indicates more cloudy skies than sunny days, narratively speaking: “much like the starving, survivalist polar bears that occupy a considerable amount of story time, the production seems to bite off more than it can chew.” EW grade: C+

Hedwig and the Angry Inch  Neil Patrick Harris makes a long-awaited return to the stage after a decade with none other than John Cameron Mitchell’s unique East German “slip of a girly boy” made famous Off-Broadway in 1998 and on film in 2001. The wait was more than worth it, agrees Thom Geier: “In a bravura performance, [Harris] proves the perfect instrument for Hedwig’s transition into world-class superstardom. He’s honed his showmanship on four Tony Awards gigs, of course. But he’s looser here, and lewder, more spontaneous and quick on his pumps.” EW grade: A-

The Velocity of Autumn  Estelle Parsons, rockin’ and rollin’ at age 86 (!), returns to Broadway in a new play by Eric Coble, as a fed-up older woman who threatens to blow up her Brooklyn abode as a means to mediate involvement with her estranged son (Stephen Spinella). Stephan Lee found Parsons’ company to be well-worth the 90-minute cohabitation: “Parsons is always the blazing focal point of the show, even when she’s sharing the stage with Spinella and a glowingly orange tree. With seeming effortlessness, she plays a woman whose mind is failing her despite flashes of wit and rage and pettiness and compassion.” EW grade: B+

Violet  Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley’s tuneful, 1960s-set tale of a disfigured wallflower seeking physical redemption in the God-fearing South, starring Sutton Foster in her first Broadway role since that Tony-winning role three seasons ago, and she remains one of the Main Stem’s bright lights, says Melissa Rose Bernardo. “Fantastic as she was in her two spangly, tap-dance-filled Tony-winning performances—flapper/stenographer Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie and evangelist–turned–nightclub singer Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes — she’s never been more vulnerable, or more moving, than she is here.” EW grade: A-

Your Mother’s Copy of the Kama Sutra  Playwrights Horizons stages the latest by Rude Mechanicals co-founder Kirk Lynn, a drama about a couple reenacting their sexual pasts before they decide to tie the knot. Did it get Joe McGovern all hot-and-bothered? Mainly the latter, given snatches of his assessment: “Despite punchy dialogue and a few much-appreciated segues into the ludicrous, it is not as tough or as naughty as it thinks it is…less saucy and more cumbersome than it should be.” EW grade: C+

 

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