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Ben Siegel


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It never gets any easier to watch, to absorb the horrifying reality depicted in “The Diary of Anne Frank.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Anne’s story, and felt both worry and awe. Each time, it rattles a nervous bone, and by lights down, it strengthens my spine a little more. And yet, the fear of redundancy, of complacency or, worse, irrelevance lingers. So whe…

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Theater is great for “what ifs.” I love when a playwright pontificates on the unknowable, imagines the impossible. For those wondering about God, the New Phoenix Theatre has got your curiosity covered. “Way Back When” is an evening of one-act plays about faith that pairs the work of two local Jewish playwrights with a spirited ensemble. The results are enjoyable and ins…

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It’s a fortunate coincidence for local audiences that two extraordinary plays about the same difficult topic have opened in as many days. At Subversive Theatre, Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “How I Learned to Drive” looks at the sexual abuse of a minor through the lens of its survivor, a grown woman reaching toward healing, catharsis by memory. At Road Less Tr…

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Paula Vogel’s Putlizer Prize-winning “How I Learned to Drive” is not an easy play. But it is a necessary one. Buckle up. It describes the sexual relationship between Lil Bit, a young woman in rural Maryland on the verge of adulthood, and Uncle Peck, a relative by marriage. There should be no other qualifications on that fact; this is an illegal kind of relationship. But…

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There’s a special gift waiting for you at the Manny Fried Playhouse, where Raíces Theatre Company’s one-act play festival, “Desde el Puente: Christmas Edition,” has opened. Do what you must, in the bustle of your holiday plans, to get yourself a ticket before it closes on Dec. 17. Yes, it’s a perfect way to ring in the holiday season, but it offers something much more l…

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It’s common this time of year to visit our loved ones at the cemetery. There we plant flowers, mind hedges, leave stones and, perhaps, tell stories of life above ground. But in an annual production at Forest Lawn, it’s Buffalo’s famous loved ones who do the visiting. “It Was a Wonderful Life” is a unique piece of theater: part history lesson, part holiday concert, pa…

When it comes to conversations about race, the “sticks and stones” adage holds no weight. Words do matter, and they do hurt. In Greg Kalleres’s 2014 play “Honky,” we enter a discussion about race through the lens of language. It offers not an easy way through the issues — easy isn’t helpful — rather a productive, reparative one. A new production of “Honky” opened Thu…

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There’s a breath of fresh air on stage at MusicalFare right now. It’s a musical that’s never been seen in Western New York and one you probably have never heard of, despite it debuting off-Broadway 20 years ago. It’s called “Violet,” and in a beautiful new production from director Susan Drozd, it offers a much-needed salve. By its closing number, I felt like I had taken…

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Picture it: Buffalo. Dec. 9, 1993. I’m in sixth grade and on cloud nine. We’re rushing home from Hebrew school on a rainy Thursday night. The Janet World Tour with Tony! Toni! Toné! is just an hour away, and there’s plenty to do: drop off the carpool, rush home, down dinner, rush back out. The Aud awaits; two seats, red section. But at 6:35 p.m., the mood is cerem…

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I think every sandwich or wrap should have a sweet spot. The perfect explosion of fillings, flavors and textures that just nails it: your perfect bite. The moment I bit into my first wrap at Rachel’s Mediterranean, I knew I had found that spot. At the Delaware Avenue location that I frequent (and at ones on McKinley and Walden), options are kept to a small though expans…

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Sometimes it’s exhausting talking about art. Sometimes, all I want to do is stand in a gallery, or sit in an auditorium, or lounge in my home, and just absorb what’s in front of me. The pontification and processing of what it means, how it was presented, what it could have done better is important to me. But there are times when the discussion gets in the way of being p…

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Like most young aspiring singers in 1992, Deborah Cox’s life was changed by “The Bodyguard.” The popular film was a success unto itself (though not a critical hit), but it was the soundtrack and lead single, “I Will Always Love You,” that turned it into a phenomenon. The album went on to become the fourth-highest selling album of all time. For Cox, the movie offered a v…

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Educational theater can be a difficult thing to stomach. It has a more specific objective and audience in mind than most other plays do. If it’s too instructional or explanatory, it condescends. I sensed this feeling in the pit of my stomach as soon as the lights came up on “Blood at the Root,” the season opener at the Paul Robeson Theatre. The play is a co-production w…

How lucky we are to have the Brazen-Faced Varlets in our midst. The female-forward company’s scrappy productions are often performed in the back room of Rust Belt Books, a Bohemian cave of literary wonder and secondhand love. Their plays often rewrite or re-imagine classics, passing old tales off to new audiences like avid readers share their earmarked books. Their work ma…

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Who could forget the look on Megan Cavanagh’s face as Marla Hooch, the dowdy second-basewoman in “A League of Their Own.” Hooch wasn’t a looker, to a comical end. Her hunched posture, sullen face and indifference to fashion made for plenty of laughs, but she was a phenomenal ball player with simple, Midwestern values—a team player. Cavanagh’s performance turned Hooch in…