The National Catholic Review

Theater

  • March 9, 2015

    Depending on when you date its birth, it took rock music as much as a decade and a half to move from the pop charts to the Broadway stage, with 1968’s “Hair.” Hip-hop has been with us nearly twice as long—at least 30 years, if you measure by mainstream success—and as such is long overdue for its own stage musical moment, not least because rap, even more than rock, is a natural narrative form.

  • In 1912, at the tender age of 24, an aimless, alcoholic college dropout named Eugene O’Neill tried to commit suicide in a New York City flophouse called Jimmy-the-Priest. By then he’d already been married, had a son and divorced, and there was much more personal tumult to come in his eventful life. But while recovering from his suicide attempt and a bout of tuberculosis that same year, the young O’Neill had time for a lot of reading and reflection, and he found a new calling: to become a...

  • Depending on when you date its birth, it took rock music as much as a decade and a half to move from the pop charts to the Broadway stage, with 1968’s “Hair.” Hip-hop has been with us nearly twice as long—at least 30 years, if you measure by mainstream success—and as such is long overdue for its own stage musical moment, not least because rap, even more than rock, is a natural narrative form.

  • February 16, 2015

    A show that skewers show business strikes a slippery bargain with its audience, and it can backfire. While we may smile knowingly at its insights into backstage chicanery and the cynicism of producers, and enjoy its winking parodies of other, implicitly lesser shows, a piece of entertainment intended to make us think critically about the value of entertainment itself risks having its own judgments turned back on itself.

  • February 9, 2015

    ‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” wrote Emily Dickinson. These days, as concern about immigration, racism and terrorism take center stage, many people seek the truth about these issues, so perhaps there is no better time to experience Ayad Akhtar’s provocative Pulitzer Prize winning drama, Disgraced, which appeared off-Broadway two years ago and is now running on Broadway.

  • One of the most delightful forms of satire occurs when theater makes fun of itself. Some of the classics of the type include such hits as “The Royal Family,” Edna Ferber and George S.

  • A show that skewers show business strikes a slippery bargain with its audience, and it can backfire. While we may smile knowingly at its insights into backstage chicanery and producerial cynicism, and enjoy its winking parodies of other, implicitly lesser shows, a piece of entertainment intended to make us think critically about the value of entertainment itself risks having its own judgments turned back on itself.

  • November 24, 2014

    Father Jim O’Brien, an Irish priest in the northern English shipbuilding town of Wallsend, is supposed to preach on the passage about the “salt of the earth” in Matthew’s Gospel, but he has got something else on his mind. Setting the Scripture aside, he directly addresses his flock: working men and their families, who yearn for the return of meaningful paid employment to their all-but-closed-down burgh.

  • October 6, 2014

    In the late 1950s, Broadway and Off Broadway theater had become a bit grim. The major hits of the era presented a rather pessimistic view of life, especially of the family: the home as prison (“A Raisin in the Sun,” “The Miracle Worker”), monster parents (“Gypsy”) and rebellious adolescents (“West Side Story”). Even musicals fell into this pattern. But on May 3, 1960, a modest little musical called The Fantasticks opened Off Broadway at a tiny theater...

  • A bearded, haunted man scrambles into the black box theater wearing a soot-colored hoodie, jeans with fist-sized holes at both knees, and a slim backpack, while red siren lights flash and tense cop-show music blares. He crouches behind trash cans to elude an unseen pursuer. When the threat appears to pass, he spots a posted decree from “the Emperor” warning “followers of The Way” that they’ll be detained as “traitors to the state.” Tearing it down, annoyed, he chalks a simple “ichthys” fish...