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Ben Siegel


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It’s hard to know what to do with “Baby” in 2019. The 1983 comedy, with music by Buffalo boy David Shire, is very much set in its era, and does not age well as a piece of cultural commentary. It espouses the idea that babymaking is something only straight white couples do, or want. It also presents a picture of childbirth, in its brief climactic finale – let’s forgo spo…

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It will never be too soon to revive “Ragtime.” It’s a magnificent piece of theater, with a glorious score that still sounds transcendent more than 20 years after its debut. With a pageant of characters, and their wealth of perspectives on American life, the show’s hope for a more diverse future is as wide as the ocean. Yes, it is that epic. An impressive new producti…

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My father had a way of telling a story. If I asked a question about our culture or traditions, or anything else about which he was an expert, his game face would turn on. He’d give me a hard look of disbelief, look over his shoulder for backup, shake his finger in astonishment and do me the honor of passing along his special fact. If he took his glasses off, that meant pay…

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When a show doesn’t work, you can usually start to understand why by looking at its three support beams: the text, the actors and the director. Chances are, one of those beams is looser than the others; sometimes more than one needs support. It’s a good reminder this is a collaborative art, with one would hope many checkstops on the way to opening night. Take the recent…

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If there’s one thing you can count on at Subversive Theatre, besides the lumbering climb up those Pierce-Arrow building stairs (or a forgiving ride in the entertaining old service elevator), it’s their commitment to the worker. Every production over the last 16 years, whether self-derived or a revived classic, has proudly waved the flag of laborers, freedom-fighters, ac…

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On Harlan Penn’s multilayered set for “Native Son” at the Paul Robeson Theatre, Bigger Thomas ambles and climbs its many steps, ramps and levels with a poeticism that author Richard Wright makes clear is the definitive statement of race in this country: This place is rigged. That this were only a poem, though. In Nambi E. Kelley’s vignette-filled adaptation of Wright…

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Permanently bookmarked in my web browser is a YouTube clip of Kathy Najimy delivering a short monologue. She plays an adorably eccentric woman from New York City, decorated in funky eyewear, who shares the news of her nephew’s coming out. She’s your favorite relative, the one who tells you secrets about your parents and slips you a $5 bill when hugging. She loves you, no m…

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Act One. We open on a dining room, tucked away in the back of a suburban bar and grill. The mood is energetic, the buzz of a fresh Friday night electrifying conversation among the tables. It feels comfy and close in here, dinner among new friends and gracious servers. On the menu, a slate of marinara mandates and meaty meals—veal parmigiana, fettuccine primavera, osso b…

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The Raíces Theatre Company is on a roll with its latest production, the English language world premiere of Marco Antonio Rodríguez’s “Barceló on the Rocks.” It is directed with grit and precision by Raíces artistic director Victoria Pérez. Digging deep into their Latinx history and identity, the play shines light on those left behind by South American political conflict…

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It’s hard to imagine a more wholesome Christmas story than the one about the three French prisoners who worked on the shop-owner’s roof and then killed his cousin with a snake. You know the one. Samuel and Bella Spewack’s 1953 play “My Three Angels” is exactly that holiday gem, and then some. It’s just as ludicrous as that only somewhat-abridged summary sounds, while al…

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There is no sweeter sound, when sitting in an attentive audience, than the gasp of a connection being made. That one line, look or silent gap that registers a deep understanding of a revelatory idea. In the brain it processes as fireworks, but in the quiet of the room, it registers as something inarticulate — a drawn-out “hmm” or an exclamatory “huh!” The gut always knows.…

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For all the jabs taken at musical theater—that it’s overwrought, laborious, self-indulgent—few laugh as earnestly at it as those who perform it. This makes the trip to “Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits,” the spoof revue now at MusicalFare’s Premier Cabaret, all the more delicious. If you ever rolled your eyes at a dramatic interpretation, or felt your mouth agape, in …

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For all its enduring success over the years, in professional, community and school productions around the world, there’s one hurdle that stalls–or maybe haunts–most productions of “Little Shop of Horrors.” That of Ellen Greene’s indelible, irresistible, iconic performance as Audrey, the silken heroine who falls for nerdy Seymour in a downtrodden Skid Row plant shop. Her…

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Now in its 51st season, the Paul Robeson Theatre kicks off a new year with the beloved musical “Purlie.” Set in the Jim Crow South, and written at the precipice of the Civil Rights Movement, the show is still flagrantly relevant today. Purlie Victorious is a traveling preacher who returns home to save his Georgia hometown from a rich white landowner hell-bent on salvagi…

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You may wonder, like I did, halfway through the first act of “Social Security,” now running at Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre through Oct. 28, if Andrew Bergman’s play is the classic New York comedy I never knew existed. By “New York comedy,” I mean Jewish. And by that, of course, I mean the likes of the recently departed Neil Simon, or the great Mike Nichols, who directed …