The National Catholic Review

Theater

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  • January 4-11, 2016

    The Belgian-born, Dutch-based theater director Ivo van Hove has become something of a New York fixture in the last few decades, in large part for his stark, cobweb-clearing, Off-Broadway stagings of classics by Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, Henrik Ibsen, and Molière. For many critics and audiences, van Hove’s work is an irresistible mix of European Regietheater —the practice by which continental directors radically rethink classics with scant regard...

  • A. R. Gurney is one of our most prolific playwrights. At age 85, he has had more than 50 of his plays produced with critical and audience acclaim, almost always in Off-Broadway and regional theaters. His specialty is the depiction of the upper-class WASP family, with its repressed emotions and its imminent doom, on display in works like “The Cocktail Hour,” “Love Letters” and others.

    This fall a revival of Sylvia finally made it to Broadway. (The play, now showing at the Cort Theatre, first...

  • November 23, 2015

    The social-conservative notion that the family is the basic unit of society is uncannily mirrored by the common leftist and feminist critique of the family as a factory for authoritarian values—a basic unit, all right, but of a corrupt and joyless social order. You can sometimes hear a similar complaint about American playwriting: that it keeps returning, like an aimless adult child who never moves out, to the family as a default template for drama. From...

  • November 2, 2015

    While some studies have described church attendance as declining in this country, the same cannot be said for attendance at the shrines and temples of the theater, on Broadway and off; and many of the productions that people have flocked to have not shied away from religious themes. Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s mega-hit “The Book of Mormon” opened more than four years ago, won an abundance of awards and still plays to packed houses of theatergoers willing to...

  • October 19, 2015

    The term “deaf musical” may sound like an especially odd oxymoron, but for those who have been paying attention, it has become something of a miraculous hybrid art form unto itself, developed over the past 15 years by the small Los Angeles company Deaf West Theatre. In their groundbreaking staging of the Huck Finn musical “Big River” in 2001, which made its way triumphantly to Broadway in 2003, a mixed cast of deaf and hearing performers fused sign language...

  • Ten years ago, poet, playwright and performer Michael Mack Googled the name of the priest who had sexually abused him decades earlier when he was an 11-years-old boy living in North Carolina. He found out his abuser was alive and living in Worcester, Mass., not too far from where Mack lived in Boston. After years of holding imaginary conversations with the priest who had molested him, Mack decided to seek him out to have a real one. What followed is the subject of “Conversations with My...

  • September 21, 2015

    Prisons have been very much in the news these days, with information about our country’s enormous number of the incarcerated, the resulting overcrowding, the length of prison sentences for nonviolent crimes, the behavior of many of the prison staff, the overuse of solitary confinement, the predominance of African-American men in prison and so on. There’s the hit television series, “Orange is the New Black,” which is set inside a women’s prison. Now an off-...

  • August 3-10, 2015

    In June President Barack Obama concluded his eulogy at the memorial service for the victims of the shootings in a Charleston, N.C., church by singing the first verse of the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.” The choir and indeed the entire congregation—and perhaps even the millions watching the service on television—joined the president in singing a hymn that has special meaning for the African-American church. It was a remarkable moment....

  • May 18, 2015

    There’s no use denying that a certain vestigial Englishness is a persistent strand in our American DNA. This is not strictly a matter of colonial history—that our nation’s so-called founding fathers, to a man, began their lives as subjects of the Crown. It is more like an affectionate familial bond with an old relative from a half-remembered hometown; a fond recognition, from a comfortable distance, that we share with the United Kingdom something more than a...

  • June 8-15, 2015

    “Some people watch TV, we sing,” says Tanya, a middle-aged prostitute who’s part of the downbeat tableau vivant of Lisa D’Amour’s grittily sentimental new play Airline Highway , now on Broadway. Tanya is explaining to an outsider, a young high schooler from Atlanta, why her tribe of New Orleans motel residents occasionally breaks into lively group song, trading raps to the accompaniment of an overturned plastic drum.

    The Big Easy might be one of the few remaining spots in the United...