Thursday, July 20, 2023

Once Upon a One More Time - Broadway


Britney Spears fans rejoice!  You finally have your own jukebox Broadway musical - Once Upon a One More Time - to celebrate.  For others, with a more casual acquaintance to the songs of the pop star, the show is more diverting with a problematic book, and high-octane dancing to entertain even the most jaded audience member.


The plot incorporates a catalog of the singer’s hits to advance the story and expound on characterization.  We find Cinderella and many of her storybook friends, such as Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, relive their fairy tale existences over and over in a Neverland overseen by The Narrator.  Everything is humming along nicely until one day Cinderella begins to question why?  Is there anything else to this life?  To happily ever after?  An uproar ensues within the tight knit community as the various women proclaim an independence to their scripted lives.  Prince charming is confused.  The evil stepmother and her daughters see an opportunity to advance their agenda, and The Narrator is not pleased.  There is rebellion, unforeseen consequences and, of course, a happy ending.  Actually, a revisionist take on the standard happy ending.


The thrust of Jon Hartmere’s overly plotted libretto focuses on female empowerment and faith in one’s beliefs.  The women of the oft-told stories want to live their own lives and not what has been dictated to them over the years.  The premise is sound, but the follow through is not.  Watching the musical unfold reminded me of the convoluted book of the Go Go’s musical, Head Over Heels, where the storyline became too cumbersome and uninteresting, ending in a frustrating theatrical event for devotees of the band’s output.


I was surprised how few Britney Spears songs I recognized considering her music was the soundtrack of my two daughter’s formative years.  But besides such classics as “...Baby One More Time” and “Oops…I Did It Again” much of the score was unfamiliar.  Many compositions seemed to be shoehorned into the book as opposed to, for example, the jukebox musical & Juliet where every song fit perfectly into each scene (incidentally, producer/writer Max Martin’s Spears’ compositions appear in both productions).  Rabid followers of the singer will know every tune.  Director and Choreographers Keone and Mari Madrid present many of them as high energy dance routines one might experience at a live concert or a music video on MTV (do they still show music videos?).  These production numbers are augmented by a dazzling array of light and sound from Lighting Designer Kenneth Posner and Sound Designer Andre Keister.  Scenic Designer Anna Fleischle adds to the party with a minimal, at times, bedazzling set for the routines.  Loren Elstein’s costumes are both hip fairytale appropriate and music video chic.


Directors/Choreographers Keone and Mari Madrid are at their best with the more humorous moments of the show, but the production does bog down when scenes of earnestness or reflection take center stage.  Fortunately, when this occurs, a scintillating dance number is just around the bend.



Briga Heelan, who, in her Broadway debut, is a radiant Cinderella, full of spunk and brightness.  Her energy and determination help gloss over the deficiencies of the production.  Justin Guarini, who has carved out a decent Broadway career since his 2nd place finish on the first season of American Idol, is a fine Prince Charming.  He’s an inadvertent sexist (it’s in his DNA) and plays the role with good-natured humor.  He can also keep pace with the younger ensemble members during their lively dance numbers.  Adam Godley’s Narrator, in a one note portrayal, is suitably pompous, arrogant, and exacting.  Jennifer Simard, a comedic delight in her previous Broadway outings, is only given slight opportunities to shine as the evil stepmother.  Gleefully, each one of her scenes are quite amusing.


Once Upon a One More Time, a joyous jukebox musical for Britney Spears enthusiasts, now on Broadway.



Monday, July 17, 2023

Dial M for Murder - Westport Country Playhouse

The murder-mystery genre has always been a popular staple for the theatrical stage.  But when you exclude musicals from this group, there have actually been only a handful of notable productions over the years.  Three that come quickly to mind are Sleuth, Deathtrap, and the Grand Dame of them all, The Mousetrap (which, incidentally, is scheduled to open on Broadway during the 2023 - 2024 season).  Another play that fits into this category is Dial M for Murder, receiving a spine-tingling production at the Westport Country Playhouse through July 29.


L-R: Kate Abbruzzese, Krystel Lucas, Patrick Andrews, and Kate Burton in “Dial M for Murder."  Photo by Carol Rosegg

Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher has made a few changes to Frederick Knot’s original work (another incidental - Mr. Knot is also the writer of another well-known theatrical thriller - Wait Until Dark), but each has a negligible effect on the production.  Both are just gender bender additions.


I don’t want to talk too much about the plot.  Why spoil the fun?  Suffice it to say there is a seemingly well-thought through murder, intrigue, blackmail, plot twists and turns, and an intrepid detective that brings the guilty party to justice.


Kate Abbruzzese in “Dial M for Murder." Photo by Carol Rosegg

At the beginning of the show there is a scene with a substantial amount of exposition - here’s the plan, how the murder is going to take place, and the ramifications of the evil deed.  It might seem like too much talking, but is necessary (as well as compelling) in order for the rest of the production to proceed on its carefully crafted course.


Director Mark Lamos, his last show as Artistic Director of the Westport Country Playhouse, and Mr. Hatcher have brought energy, excitement and a tad of titillation to this war horse of a play.  The show has the characters engaged in a life or death chess match and Mr. Lamos has adeptly, as well as playfully, plotted each intricate move around Scenic Designer Alexander Dodge’s stylish set of a London flat.  Emma Deane’s Lighting Design provides atmospheric ambiance for heart-stirring moments of the show.  Sound Designer Kate Marvin has spliced together music from the mid-1950’s to give the entire production a bewitching, jazzy film noir soundtrack.


Kate Burton in “Dial M for Murder." Photo by Carol Rosegg

The cast of the show is marvelous.  Kate Abbruzzese’s Margot Wendice, wife and would-be victim, may appear meek, but shows resolve when needed most. Patrick Andrews’ Tony Wendice, gives a smooth, calculating performance as her husband.  Krystel Lucas, tall and beautiful (garbed in sumptuous outfits by Costume Designer Fabian Fidel Aguilar), gives a shrewd, wholly satisfying performance as mystery writer Maxine Hadley.  Denver Milord’s imbues his portrayal of Lesgate, the wildcard of the group, with just the right amount of edginess and desperation.  Veteran actress Kate Burton is wonderful as the unvarnished, intrepid Inspector Hubbard.  With her no-nonsense navy blue skirt and jacket, black pumps and matching purse she shows pluck and determination in catching the bad guy.


Dial M for Murder, a theatrical treat during these hot summer days, playing at the Westport Country Playhouse through July 29.  Click here for dates, times, and ticket information.




Seven Cousins for a Horse - Thrown Stone Theatre

A historical work of theater can be problematic if there are not key dramatic moments to keep the audience engaged.  This is the central issue with the world premiere of Seven Cousins for a Horse, playing at Thrown Stone Theatre in Ridgefield, CT.  There is a lot of chatter and pontificating about social issues such as the abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage, but they are presented in a context that is unavailing and too matter-of-fact. 


The show uses as a backdrop portrait painter Ammi Phillips’ 1848 visit to his cousin’s home in Colebrook, CT.  He has agreed to paint seven portraits of the Kinney family in exchange for a new horse.  He cajoles and pleads with members of the household to sit so he can complete his commission and return home to his wife.  During these sessions playwright Tammy Ryan has conjured up backstories for each character.  Unveiled are individual hopes, personal quandries, and descriptions of everyday life in mid-19th Century Connecticut.  Ms. Ryan also incorporates dream sequences to augment the thoughts and experiences of the painter. 


This all adds up to some interesting banter and views on work, home, and the aforementioned issues of the day.  But the action comes across more as recitations with little excitation or tension.  The show ambles along.  In the end, with the job complete, the play quietly concludes.


Director Jonathan Winn looks to infuse energy into the production with busyness and artifice, but with little ardor and characters only mildly interesting, it is a tough task.  His incorporation of Christopher Evans’ projections, at first, are confusing, but also do not fully achieve the dreamlike or flashback effect.  The utilization of composer Aidan Meachem’s (who also plays Lucius Culver) agreeable incidental music adds charm to the production.  Mr. Winn should have also evaluated the play’s confusing ending.  Twice the audience applauded at blackouts thinking the show was over.  The real ending could have easily been jettisoned.


The cast, outfitted in appropriate mid-19th century garbs from Costume Designer Brenda Phelps, and shuttling about in Scenic Designer Richard Harrison’s aptly appointed living room, seemed to be feeling their way around their characters.  Some of the performers spoke too quickly and showed little emotion or nuance within their roles.


Seven Cousins for a Horse, playing through July 23 at Thrown Stone Theatre.  Click here for dates, times and ticket information.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Clyde's - Theaterworks Hartford

My favorite sandwich is corned beef - not too lean, with a little fat for flavoring - on a fresh seedless New York rye, cole slaw (not too runny) and brown mustard.


Clyde’s, running through August 5 at Theaterworks Hartford, is the company’s best production of a play this year.  Written by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, the  show is entertaining, successfully melding comedy with dramatic moments.  You’ll leave Clyde’s smiling, but also thinking about the serious issues raised in the show.


The setting is the kitchen area of a dive sandwich shop, meticulously rendered with a plethora of minute details by Scenic Designer Collette Pollard and includes Eric Watlkins’ on-the-mark fluorescent lighting design.  Frequented by truckers, the business is ruled by Clyde (Antonia Phipps), an ex-con, foul-mouthed, pugnacious woman who treats her formerly incarcerated employees with disrespect and contempt.  These past offenders take her coarseness and incivility because no one else will employ people with a record.


The workers at the establishment are, relative old-timers, Letitia (Ayanna Bria Bakari) and Rafael (Samuel Maria Gomez), newcomer Jason (David T. Patterson) and Montrellous (Michael Chenevert), the sensei of sandwich making.  While they toil away at their meager jobs, dodging the bombastic owner at all costs, they share their troubles and their hopes for a better tomorrow.  Throughout the show, led by their intrepid leader Montrellous, they attempt to create the perfect sandwich, which helps them overcome their distressing lives as they dream about a better future.


My second favorite sandwich - a post-Thanksgiving turkey creation, with moist dark meat, stuffing (cold or reheated), homemade cranberry sauce, on a home baked pumpkin roll.


What elevates Ms. Nottage’s work beyond simple comedic moments are the stories by the four kitchen staff members - the difficulties they continuously face and their attempts to move forward.  At different points during the play, we learn about each person’s background.  There are no excuses, only regrets about their actions.  Initially blaming the world for their woes, they come to the realization they need to step up and take responsibility for their past.


As the 90-minute, intermission-less production concludes, there is a real sense of camaraderie and bonding among the foursome.  Clyde is an unavoidable irritant, but she cannot extinguish their affirming spirit.


Director Mikael Burke takes the playwright’s text and shapes it into a taut show.  The kitchen space is cramped, but the performers move in a well-orchestrated dynamism.  The many scene changes are accomplished quickly, never slowing down the pacing of the show.  Ms. Burke adeptly combines the humorous, confessional and heartfelt moments with skill and care.


The cast - Antonia Phipps, Ayanna Bria Bakari, Samuel Maria Gomez, David T. Patterson and Michael Chenevert - truly embody their characters with realism and truth.  They create a highly satisfying arc of believability.  My main critique is Antonia Phipps’ portrayal of Clyde.  Yes, she is one mean hombre (and you have to love the flashy outfits she wears, courtesy of Costume Designer Alexis Carrie), but she could have been even more over-the-top, which would have given more credence to the kitchen crew’s constant fear of her.


Clyde’s, a theatrical treat for foodies and others, playing at Theaterworks Hartford through August 5.  Click here for information on dates, times and tickets.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Grey House - Broadway

A show with a bunch of creepy kids is most likely going to be a creepy show.  That’s the case with Grey House, a horror/ghost tale with, yes, a collection of creepy children.  The play, starring Laurie Metcalf, has its share of supernatural and spooky moments, but there is too much focus on the eeriness - strange rituals and bizarre antics - instead of plot.  Audiences need to wait until the final moments of the show to start putting the pieces of this  labyrinthine puzzle together.


The real fun of the production is Scott Pask’s claustrophobic and nightmarish scenic design - a rundown cabin in the woods - and Natasha Katz’s otherworldly lighting mixed in with Tom Gibbon’s ghoulish sound design.


At the start of the play we are introduced to the curious group of children residing in the ramshackled abode.  Raleigh (Laurie Metcalf) seems to be the head of the household, but her parenting ways are just a bit off.  Enter Max (Tatiana Maslany) and Henry (Paul Sparks) who take refuge in the house after skidding off the icy road and smashing up their car, which severely injured Henry’s ankle.  There is a lot of bizarre babble, rituals, and goings-on.  Max and Henry realize something peculiar is occurring.  They just can’t figure out what until it’s too late for both of them.


Playwright Levi Holloway provides a fair share of bumps in the night, but I was wanting more substance throughout the show as opposed to the “aha” moments towards the end of the production.  Director Joe Mantello’s tight staging of the chilling happenings keeps the audience’s interest, especially how he adeptly integrates the creative elements into the play.


The cast is fine, led by multi-Tony Award winner Laurie Metcalf.  The actress brings an appropriate gloominess and morose dourness to the motherly Raleigh.  Ms. Metcalf’s actions portend something ominous, but she skillfully keeps it under wraps before the big reveal.   Tatiana Maslany’s Max and Paul Sparks’ Henry are suitably perplexed as the couple walking into mysterious surroundings.  They both convincingly convey bafflement, concern and, finally, fear.  Sophia Anne Caruso’s Marlow, the seeming leader of the young group of children, richly imbues her character with enough quirks and weirdness to chill the heart of the bravest soul.


Grey House, a mostly disappointing horror/ghost story, playing at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway.



Friday, July 7, 2023

The Sound of Music - Ivoryton Playhouse

The Sound of Music, the last musical written by the illustrious duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, is receiving a shimmering production at the Ivoryton Playhouse.  There are a few problems, but the overall presentation will satisfy any musical theater fan.


The book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, based on the 1949 memoir of Maria von Trapp, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, can be somewhat schmaltzy and is old-fashioned, but in a pleasing manner.

A quick look at the story for audience members not familiar with the plot - The show opens at the Nonnberg Abbey, near Salzburg, Austria.  We are introduced to Maria, a postulate and free-spirit at the nunnery.  She loves to sing, and her rambunctious character doesn’t necessarily fit within a religious environment.  Sent off for a temporary assignment to be the governess for Captain von Trapp, a widower with seven children, she quickly charms her charges as well as the stoic captain.  Complications arise.  The stately Baroness Elsa Schrader has her eyes on marrying the former naval officer.  Making matters worse, Nazi Germany is beginning to make forays into the country, threatening to disrupt the tranquility of everyday life. 

At the beginning of Act II, the Captain and Baroness have broken off their engagement.  Maria and the Captain are now free to acknowledge their love for each other and marry.  Upon returning from their honeymoon the former high ranking military officer is about to be forced to take command of the German naval forces or face dire consequences.  To avoid the unwanted conscription, the von Trapp family plan an escape after performing in the annual Kaltzburg singing festival, which is organized by family friend Max Detweiler.  Their course of action works and after hiding out from the approaching Nazis in the Abbey, the family makes their getaway over the mountains to Switzerland.

The music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II is one of their most memorable.  Within the first 15 minutes of the show audiences have already been treated to the title number, “Maria,” and my “Favorite Things.”  Before the end of Act I there is the additional musical treats of "Do-Re-Mi,” Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” The Lonely Goatherd, “So Long, Farewell,” and “Climb Ev'ry Mountain.”  At the end of the show is the beautifully rendered “Edelweiss.”  Patrons will have a hard time holding back from singing along with all the iconic numbers.

For The Sound of Music to be a success, the musical needs a performer playing Maria who is buoyant with an infectious peronna and a dynamic voice.  The actress Adrianne Hick more than fits the bill.  Her energy and gusto infuse the production.  Most of the best loved songs in the show have been written for her character.  Ms. Hick is also a convincing actress, whether being called upon for her exuberance or toning down her zest for more reflective or contemplative moments.

While David Pittsinger has a deep resonating singing voice, he comes across as too old for the role of Captain von Trapp.  His stolid characterization, while fitting for his detached romancing of Beverly J. Ricci’s Baroness, doesn’t jive with the courting of the younger Maria.

Noteworthy members of the supporting cast include Connecticut favorite R. Bruce Connelly as the wheeler dealer Max Detweiler.  The actor’s straightforward approach and jaunty humor add an earnestness to the show.  Patricia Schuman is a fine Mother Abbess whose operatic voice is very impressive especially with the Act I closer “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.”  The seven children - Kaiya Colquhoun, Taya Diggs, Lily McIntyre, Allsdair McLaren, Emma Needleman, Parker Grey Nelson, and Viviana Velasquez - worked well as a unit, at times rebellious, vulnerable and silly.  Special mention goes to Lily McIntyre who portrays the eldest child, Liesl; and Viviana Velasquez as Marta.

Director Jacqueline Hubbard’s staging is inconsistent, but does not take away from the overall entertainment of the musical.  She receives kudos for shepherding a total of 14 children and young adults through the show as the von Trapp kids (each role is double cast).  But some scenes fall short in their dramatic thrust and the pacing of the production is occasionally toneless.  The Sound of Music is not a dance show, but Choreographer Francasca Webster provides some diverting steps to enhance songs.  

Scenic Designer Cully Long has crafted a basic, multi-functional set that is easily reconfigured to the numerous scenes required for the show, even if some scene changeovers take a tad too long.

Lighting Designer Marcus Abbott bathes the production in a pastoral lighting scheme.  Costume Designer Kate Bunce has constructed clothing that are representative of Bavarian wear.  Her outfits from the discarded curtains are whimsical and charming.

The Sound of Music, playing at the Ivoryton Playhouse through July 30.  Click here for dates, times and ticket information.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Something Rotten! - Sharon Playhouse

The Sharon Playhouse commences their summer season with a generally sprightly production of the crowd pleasing musical, Something Rotten!  The show is clever and full of merriment, full of high-spirited dance numbers and a tuneful score.


It is the end of the 16th century and William Shakespeare (Danny Drewes) has achieved rock star status as the playwright everyone loves and wants to emulate.  Enter the Bottom brothers, Nick (Michael Santora) and Nigel (Max Crumm), that write and produce their own plays in the shadow of The Bard.  Unfortunately, they are in desperate need of a hit to keep their merry band of actors together and placate their moneyed patron.   Complicating matters is Nick’s desire to make a better life for him and his wife Bea (Emily Esposito) and Nigel’s love for Portia (Melissa Goldberg) the daughter of the holier-than-thou Puritan, Brother Jeremiah (Daniel Pivovar).  In desperation, Nick turns to a demented soothsayer (Jen Cody) to help her divine the next big thing in the theater.  Her simple response - a musical - sets in motion the boisterous and hugely entertaining Something Rotten!


The book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell is very funny, poking fun at theater conventions and musicals of the past.  While the defining premise of the show is rather offbeat, the two somehow make it work.  As a certified musical theater geek, the non-stop references to musicals past and present is an added bonus.


The score by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick is a delight.  Tuneful, zany and frenzied the songs are delivered with a full-throttled gusto by the talented cast.  From the raucous opening number, “Welcome to the Renaissance,” to the bellyaching complaints of “God, I Hate Shakespeare,” to the madcap production numbers “A Musical” and “We See the Light,” the songs have a joyful assault on our auditory senses.


The cast is led by Michael Santora as Nick Bottom.  While he is in fine form as the misguided, resolute Bottom brother his portrayal would have been more humorous if he was more headstrong and obstinate.  Max Crumm, a Broadway veteran, gives an assured and lightly comical performance as Nigel.  Danny Drewes is boorish and calculating as Shakespeare, but sometimes comes off as too flamboyant.  Daniel Pivovar, with his mistaken double entendres, provides silly moments to relish.  Emily Esposito, popping up intermittently as Bea, provides a number of lighthearted moments. Melissa Goldberg’s Portia is probably the finest performance of the acting ensemble.  She finds just the right amount of giddiness to her role without being cloying or too over-the-top. The diminutive Jen Cody, a sure-fired performer, once again enlivens the Connecticut stage with her comedic and physical prowess.  Her portrayal of Nostradomus never fails to bring a laugh from the audience. 


Director Amy Griffin keeps the large cast moving through their raucous and mischievous paces, pausing every so often with a quieter, more reflective (but still funny) scene.  She could have fine-tuned some of the actor’s performances to better balance the production.  Ms. Griffin adeptly integrates choreographer Justin Boccitto’s energetic dance routines, especially the razzle dazzle of “A Musical.”


TJ Greenway’s scenic design is serviceable, allowing for quick set changes.   The costumes by Kathleen DeAngelis are colorful with a slightly off-kilter take on renaissance garb.


Something Rotten!, playing through July 8.  Click here for dates and times.


Tuesday, July 4, 2023

The Museum of Broadway

Theater enthusiasts now have a museum to call their own. The Museum of Broadway, which opened in November 2022, is located in the heart of Times Square.  It is a small, but thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating institution.  It is dedicated to the storied history and legendary artistry of Broadway musicals, plays, and theaters.


The emphasis is on musicals, primarily from the 1940’s to the present and features the work of dozens of designers, artists, and theater historians.

Red Death costume from The Phantom of the Opera.


Visitors begin their journey with a short, informative video on the history and migration of New York City's theaters from the financial district to Union Square and Herald Square to modern-day Times Square.


The exhibits begin on the third floor and guests work their way down, ending up at the well-appointed gift shop on the first floor. The Museum is set up as an illustrated timeline of Broadway, from its birth to present day.  Visitors are only allowed to travel in a forward direction, which helps in the flow of guests.


First stop, the Ziegfeld Follies.  There are costumes, posters, advertising placards, all with detailed information panels.  Moving along, there are modest-sized rooms of such well-known shows as Show Boat, Oklahoma, West Side Story, Cabaret, A Chorus Line and Rent.


My favorite part of the museum are the numerous original costumes on display.  They are not enclosed so you can closely examine their craftsmanship, intricacy, and delicacy.  Please, no touching!


Some of the costumes on display at The Museum of Broadway.

For individuals interested in theater history and the creative process, there are numerous documents that can be reviewed.  For example, there are records from Jonathan Larson’s Rent that include his “Reason for Development,” portions of the script and rehearsal schedule and a letter to Stephen Sondheim about the show.


As you maneuver downstairs to the second floor exhibit space, there are videos and material relating to the many components of fashioning a Broadway musical.  Information is presented on composers, librettists, sound and scenic designers.  There are large pieces of equipment on display such as a lighting and sound board.  There is a fascinating set of miniature set models utilized by the creative personnel as the first foray into how a show will look.  In a separate part of the museum there is a sizable, three-dimensional set of Wicked, which visitors can walk around for a 360 degree view.


Large-scale, 360 degree model of the Wicked set.

The Museum also stages rotating exhibits.  ALL THAT JAZZ: The Legacy of CHICAGO is a retrospective of Chicago’s 26 years on Broadway with a special focus on photography and ad campaigns throughout the years. It runs through September 10, 2023.


As a theater geek steeped in Broadway history and trivia, I found chats with other theater aficionados along the way or in the airy gift shop to be a great deal of fun.


Entry tickets are timed, allowing for a 15-minute buffer.  This prevents overcrowding and allows for a leisurely visit.  Allot 60 – 75 minutes for your time at the Museum, more if you want to spend time reading the voluminous amount of explanatory and revealing information cards posted throughout.


The Museum of Broadway is located at 145 W. 45th Street, just a stone’s throw from Times Square.  Hours are Monday – Sunday, from 9:30am – 6:00pm (open to 8:00pm on Saturday).  Click here for complete information and ticket pricing.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground - Off-Broadway

Why do I go to the theater?  It’s because of productions like Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground, the one-man show about Dwight David Eisenhower starring John Rubenstein in a virtuoso performance.  Playwright Richard Hellesen has crafted a show that informs on a personal and historical level while also being highly entertaining. 


What sets the play into motion is an irate Eisenhower complaining, first to the publisher of his still-to-be-written memoir, and then to a tape recorder, his extreme displeasure with a Presidential ranking published in a 1962 New York Times Magazine story.  The 34th President is rated very low on the list.  As he grumbles and criticizes the criteria used by the high and mighty historians that were polled for the article, he builds a very convincing case for how the academicians got it wrong. [Spoiler Alert: Sixty years later Eisenhower is in the top tier of Presidential rankings.] 


He lists accomplishments such as the establishment of NASA, the development of the Interstate Highway System, and the keeping of world peace.  More importantly, he ruminates about his beliefs and practices when he led the United States.  He discusses the importance of compromise and being conciliatory in setting policy and working with both political parties.  Moderation and not extremism is critical in governing.  Above all else is the Constitution.  No person is above or beyond this underlying document of American democracy.  He scoffs at Presidents tainted with scandal and men such as Senator Joseph McCarthy who attempted to subvert the country’s democratic ideals for personal gain and glory.


Sitting in the darkened theater, audience members can’t help but compare the words emanating from the stage with the political reality of today.  It is sad and scary.  Politicians and everyday citizens could learn a tremendous amount from this American statesman who led our country decades ago.  It would be fascinating to think of possible changes in civility and the way our elected leaders interacted if every Republican and Democrat in Congress and all members of state legislatures attended a performance of this show.


Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground, would not be as impressive without the tour de force portrayal by John Rubenstein.  The actor embodies the man in appearance and speech.  The forcefulness of his delivery, his impassioned orations, and overall reminiscings can be spellbinding.  Rubenstein imbues his performance with nuance and balderdash and enhances the role with effective facial and hand gestures and adroit use of pauses. 


Director Peter Ellenstein brings out the humor, playfulness, warmth, and anger in Rubenstein’s role as the former general with artistry and aplomb.  He skillfully modulates the tone of the production to show the many sides of Eisenhower.


Michael Deegan’s Scenic Design of Eisenhower’s home study is straightforward.  It incorporates a large, painterly picturesque view of his Gettysburg farm that Projection Designer Joe Huppert aptly uses to flash occasional images of individuals from the ex-President’s past.


Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground, playing through July 30 at theTheatre at St. Clements, just a stone’s throw from Broadway at  W. 46th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues.