Reviews

 
A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre

A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre

A Christmas Carol

I’ve seen at least one version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for every December I’ve been reviewing theater (which adds up to a lot of Decembers, and doesn’t include annual visits to the Wanamaker’s/Macy’s Christmas Village). McCarter Theatre’s new adaptation by David Thompson probably rests at the top of that heap, a big-budget, talent-packed, and adorable-child-filled sugarplum of a production. Of course, every production of A Christmas Carol is still just that: sooty-faced Victorian urchins; the three ghosts; Ebenezer Scrooge and his humbuggery; Tiny Tim’s blessing us, every one. But there are always new generations of children ready to be terrified into a life of charitable Christian giving, and for them, McCarter’s is likely to make the lifelong impression against which all other Scrooges will be measured...

The Understudy at McCarter Theatre

The Understudy at McCarter Theatre

The Understudy

There’s a little bit of everything, both onstage and off. The action extends out into the audience space, so you really feel as if you’re in the middle of a rehearsal, not a play. As directed by McCarter’s Associate Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr, making his main-stage debut at the theater, the three-member cast brings this mayhem to life in an alarmingly believable way. For its over-90-minute duration, the play is sustained by an antic energy that flags only briefly at times.  

If you want to know what goes on in theater-peoples’ psyches, or if you’re a theater person yourself and want to relieve the tension, this play is the answer. Howlingly funny, brilliantly performed both on stage and behind the scenes, The Understudy is pure comic genius. .


Blood: A Comedy at Passage Theatre

Blood: A Comedy at Passage Theatre

Blood: A Comedy

David Lee White’s “Blood: A Comedy” couldn’t be cleverer as it deals with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, a soap-opera-style family shocker and reflections on the existence of God. The Passage Theater Company’s satisfyingly sassy production, a world premiere directed with decided finesse by Adam Immerwahr, introduces us to a painfully honest modern family with outstanding verbal skills...

The Mousetrap at McCarter Theatre

The Mousetrap at McCarter Theatre

The Mousetrap

Director Adam Immerwahr and a wonderful cast make this piece that’s been running as long in London as Queen Elizabeth II alive with an energy that belies the play’s age. It would be hard to imagine a better, or more thoughtfully conceived staging of Agatha Christie’s classic. Immerwahr keeps everything edge-of-your-seat suspenseful, while eking scads of legitimate laughs and allowing characters to develop so they seem big and individual, yet everyday and authentic...

The Last Schwartz at Theater J

The Last Schwartz at Theater J

The Last Schwartz

Immerwahr’s buoyant, indisputably funny production makes a nice case for “Schwartz"...   Immerwahr brings a light touch to this first show for the troupe he now runs: Very quickly, the performance finds a comic rhythm that’s snappy and occasionally kooky yet never pushy...


Last of the Red Hot Lovers at Walnut Street Theatre

Last of the Red Hot Lovers at Walnut Street Theatre

Last of the Red Hot Lovers

Tinder. Grindr. Match.com, and OKCupid — when Neil Simon wrote Last of the Red Hot Lovers in 1969, people actually had to meet IRL (in real life) to determine a potential mate’s worth, without prescreening photos or checklists of compatibility.  As the Walnut Street Theatre’s blisteringly funny production proves, the only thing that hasn’t changed in 50 years is the hilarious failure rate of beta schmucks and their female counterparts left and looked over by the sexual marketplace...

The Language Archive at Bristol Riverside

The Language Archive at Bristol Riverside

The Language Archive

Under the masterful direction of Adam Immerwahr, the cast delivers sympathetic performances that are at once lofty and relatable, funny and sad, uplifting and heartrending; they are thoroughly human and multi-dimensional. Irungu Mutu is a revelation as George, the heartbroken scholar who is fluent in countless languages but can’t comprehend the messages the women in his life are sending him. Julianna Zinkel (Mary) and Tiffany Villarin (Emma) are telling embodiments of the age-old tradition of the active versus the contemplative life, and Keith Baker and Jo Twiss bring passion and humor to Resten and Alta, who argue in English—“the language of anger”—rather than defile the sacredness of their indigenous tongue...

Tamer of Horses at Passage Theatre

Tamer of Horses at Passage Theatre

Tamer of Horses

Directed by Adam Immerwahr, it’s powerful, theater about issues that are as urgent today as when the play was first staged...   All three actors are splendid in their roles. Ms. Freeman’s Georgianne is the calm ballast that anchors the two wilder men. Mr. O’Blenis’s Ty wrestles with how to approach this wild child. He’s threatening, cajoling, demanding, even literally wrestling with Hector and learning street smarts in the process. The fight scenes are thrillingly choreographed by fight director Samantha Bellomo. As Hector, Mr. Piniella is scary good, moving like a loose-limbed beast and talking like a rapper. He’s at once hysterically funny and frightening in a brilliant performance...

Slippery As Sin at Passage Theatre

Slippery As Sin at Passage Theatre

Slippery as Sin

Slippery as Sin is one of the smartest and funniest new comedies around. White has nailed farce. There are some inspired visual bits in this play that are guaranteed to have you howling (at least they had me and everyone else in the place roaring uncontrollably)... Adam Immerwahr, who directed White’s Blood: A Comedy last season, is again directing, and with equally side-splitting results.  Slippery as Sin is fresh, fast-paced, wicked fun. It’s going to slip away soon, so catch it before it disappears, or you’re caught in the grip of Diabolicus, whichever comes first...


By the Water at Premiere Stages

By the Water at Premiere Stages

By The Water

As Sharyn Rothstein’s family drama unfolds in this fine production at Premiere Stages at Kean University in Union, it becomes apparent that this home was damaged in a different way long before the storm hit...  Making smart use of varied sound effects designed by Karin Graybash — subsiding thunder and rain, later the distant sound of waves and sea gulls, and brisk acoustic guitar music between the scenes — Mr. Immerwahr enhances these solid performances and the play’s changing moods. This New Jersey premiere is visually superior to Manhattan Theater Club’s original staging in 2014. A dirty high-water mark left by Hurricane Sandy smudges the white vinyl background of the expansive setting designed by Anya Klepikov, which otherwise purposefully looks barren. 

A Little Night Music at Princeton Summer Theater

A Little Night Music at Princeton Summer Theater

A Little Night Music

Pulling this major production together, Mr. Immerwahr has cast the show with unerring intelligence and directed with distinction. The pace moves rapidly from start to finish. Every moment seems carefully, precisely rehearsed; with scenes shifting smoothly; diction, projection, and balance between actors and orchestra, between comic and serious, making all the witty shades of meaning and complex dialogue clear and accessible.

A Little Night Music, in this dazzling Princeton Summer Theater production, transcends the time and place in which it is set, transcends its farcical plot, transcends the difficulties of Mr. Sondheim’s sometimes cerebral music, and it transcends the discord of these characters’ lives. It delivers a striking commentary on the human condition, the frailty of love and life. Mr. Immerwahr and his richly talented company offer an exciting opening to PST’s diverse summer season. Don’t miss it.

Hannah at Premiere Stages

Hannah at Premiere Stages

Hannah

Impatient, impetuous, imperious are appropriate adjectives to describe the young World War II Hungarian spy/poet Hannah Senesh at the center of John Wooten's play, Hannah, now onstage at Premiere Stages at Kean University in Union... Impressive is also a good word to describe Liz Wisan's portrayal of Hannah... Adam Immerwahr's direction makes it all work quite well, especially when he has the grown-up Hannah "watch" scenes from her childhood as if she is remembering them or, in one case, describing them to another prisoner... In addition to Wisan, Immerwahr has assembled a talented group of characters, many of whom have to play rather unsavory roles. The most impressive of these is Alan Coates, whose prison commandant Silon is one scary character. Sly, devious, he is quite a match for Wisan's Hannah who stands with a ramrod straight back and looks him in the eye when he addresses her. It is truly a battle of two strong wills; of course, he holds all the cards, so it won't bode well for her.