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Cosmo Vittelli is in trouble and its his own fault. The strip club owner has finally paid off a seven-year debt and to celebrate he takes three of the girls and goes to a casino. By the end of the night, he's $23,000 back in the hole and can't see his way out. When filmmaker John Cassavetes told Cosmo's story more than 40 years ago in "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie," …

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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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They're back. "Cats," the musical revue with as many lives as its fuzzily costumed characters, has taken over Shea's Buffalo Theatre with a fresh new energy. "Cats" lovers will be thrilled, and "Cats" newcomers get to see what it means when someone says a show is as good as, or better than, "Cats." It has been more than 30 years since "Cats" first played in Buffalo -…

To celebrate Valentine's Day, and maybe also to acknowledge this is a good season to stay inside and catch up on one's correspondence, O'Connell & Company is presenting a month's worth of "Love Letters," one of the most popular plays written by Buffalo-born theater legend A.R. Gurney. The play is somewhat legendary on its own, for boiling down live theater to its mo…

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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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Bad girls aren't born, they're made. That is the theme of "Medusa Undone," a new take on an ancient tragedy now on stage at New Phoenix Theatre, presented by a new theater company, Post-Industrial Productions, which also goes by PIP. Tragic backstories are not unique to Greek mythology, or to theater. Just look at Elphaba, who goes from self-conscious green-skinned acti…

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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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The starkly intricate stage design audience members see as they take their seats is the first hint that "The Illusion" is something special. Deep and dark, the many layers of this sorcerer's cave signify the many mysteries soon to be revealed on the Road Less Traveled Theater stage. One secret the set doesn't reveal is how much fun playwright Tony Kushner packs into his…

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Jane Austen’s 1811 novel, “Sense and Sensibility,” spins across the stage with playful effervescence in Kate Hamill’s adaptation, now being performed at the Irish Classical Theatre Company. First produced at the Bedlam Theatre in New York City in 2014, the original director, Eric Tucker, put his indelible mark on the piece when he equipped all of the chairs and tables w…

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The latest version of "Spamalot" to canter across a Buffalo stage is firing on all coconuts, er, cylinders, in a joyfully rambunctious production at the Kavinoky Theatre. Yes yes yes yes the cast of 19 talented performers is wonderful in more than 50 roles, and we will raise a grail to them in a minute. First, though, full credit and a forehead-to-floorboard bow must be…

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Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” is one of the great American plays. First performed in 1938, this story of small town life between 1901 and 1913 in fictional Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire earned the author the second of his three Pulitzer Prizes and has been in the American repertoire constantly ever since. With the central plot focused on the romance and marriage of tee…