Friday, February 22, 2019

5 Great Reasons To Visit Heidelberg, Germany (Mark Twain Slept Here!)

By Jacquelin Carnegie
The picture-perfect town of Heidelberg sits on the banks of the Neckar River, about an hour from Frankfurt. With its' Baroque architecture, red gabled roofs, cobblestone streets, and stunning castle ruins, it's downright charming. Once the royal seat of power for German prince electors, the town dates back to 1196. While steeped in history, Heidelberg is not stuck in the past. As a university town, it’s bustling with activity. Hauptstrasse, the pedestrian-only, main shopping street, is lined with historic pubs and trendy boutiques. This blend of ancient and modern adds to Heidelberg's charm. There are many reasons to visit but, for anyone who loves literature, this one's at the top of the list--Mark Twain lived here!
Mark Twain traveled a lot. Partly, for his own amusement, but mostly to earn a living—doing research for books or on
extensive lecture tours. In 1878, he spent several months in Heidelberg, Germany. His exploits here--real and imagined--are recounted with glee in A Tramp Abroad. No one is entirely sure why he chose Heidelberg: perhaps because its' university is the oldest in Germany (founded in 1386); maybe because the name comes from the German word "huckleberry mountain" and Twain was struggling to finish The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; or, possibly because it’s just such a pretty place.
Follow in Twain's Footsteps - Go On a Walking Tour
Since little has changed in Heidelberg, it’s easy to follow in Twain's footsteps in the vain hope that his wit and way-with-words will miraculously rub off. Retrace Twain’s sojourn here on your own or with a tour, “In the Footsteps of Mark Twain” (
Heidelberg Castle
Mark Twain Slept Here
Twain first stayed at the Hotel Schrieder, now a Crowne Plaza (Kurfürstenanlage 1). He looked out on a fancier hotel that is, today, the police headquarters. During the heat of summer, Twain moved to the Schloss Hotel (now a luxury condo) on the hill near the castle.
Mark Twain Hiked Here
The castle at the top of the hill has Gothic and Renaissance architectural elements. It was started in 1400 and burned by the French in 1689. Twain enjoyed hiking up to the ruins and watching the Castle Illuminations.
Now, you can ride the funicular up to the castle for a visit and stroll in the gardens. The Illuminations take place three times a year (June, July, September) with a concert beforehand in the Heiliggeistkirche
Heidelberg's largest and most important church (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played here)!
Mark Twain Hung Out Here
Student Jail (photo: J.Carnegie)
Twain liked to sit in on lectures at the university and got a kick out of visiting the student jail Studentenkarzer (Augustinergasse 2) in operation from 1778 to 1914. The students weren’t jailed for getting poor grades, but for pulling pranks on the locals. 
HeidelbergCard - With the card, you can check out the jail and the university in the Alstadt (old town), along with countless other attractions.
Mark Twain Was Inspired Here
In A Tramp Abroad, Twain recounts a fictional raft trip down the Neckar (the inspiration for Huck Finn’s later ride). Today, you can cruise the lovely river on the Neckarsonne, a solar-powered boat.
Mark Twain Eat Here
You can still eat some traditional German fare at places where Twain chowed down: Zum Roten Ochsen (Hauptstrasse 217; - The Red Ox has been a pub since 1703. Zum Güldenen Schaf (Hauptstrasse 115; - The Golden Sheep has been a restaurant since 1749.
Other Literati
Mark Twain isn’t the only writer to have enjoyed a stay in Heidelberg. There was Goethe, Victor Hugo, and Hemingway to name a few. Imagine a conversation between them, sipping a cold one at Hemingway's (Fahrtgasse 1). They’d certainly agree that, while the world has changed, Heidelberg’s charm prevails.
Neckar river (photo: J.Carnegie)
What's New: Visiting Heidelberg today, you can also enjoy plenty of year-round cultural events ranging from a Vampire Ball to music, art, and literary festivals.
Where To Stay: Hip-Hotel ( - Hip, indeed! Each room is decorated as a different country. (The Kischka family also owns the Zum Güldenen Schaf restaurant, right next door.)
Getting There: Fly into nearby Frankfurt then, directly from the airport, take a shuttle, bus, or train to Heidelberg.
[A version of this article first appeared on]

Friday, January 18, 2019

New York: THEATER BUZZ, Winter/Spring 2019

By Jacquelin Carnegie - (New York, NY) 
Fend off the winter blues in New York City with great theater.
Friendly Reminder: Off- and Off-Off Broadway shows have limited runs, so get tickets right away. 


THE PUBLIC THEATER - The Public Theater (425 Lafayette St.)
WHITE NOISE - Anspacher Theater, Until May 5, 2019
Written by Suzan-Lori Parks; Directed by Oskar Eustis; Starring: Daveed Diggs (Leo), Sheria Irving (Misha), Thomas Sadoski (Ralph), Zoë Winters (Dawn)
(photo: Joan Marcus)
WHITE NOISE is another tour de force by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks with a fantastic ensemble cast. In her brilliant TOPDOG/UNDERDOG, two brothers go toe-to-toe. Here, four friends since college--two white, two black--have always had each other's backs. But when Leo (the mesmerizing Daveed Diggs) is traumatized by a racially-motivated incident with the cops, his outré scheme to get back his sense of safety and self tests the friendships to the core. This is an intensely-powerful piece pushing the characters to the breaking point, then bringing them crashing back down to earth. Brace yourself for a phenomenal evening of theater--and life. But, do not miss this show!

Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th St;; Until May 19, 2019
(photo: Joan Marcus)
Written & Composed by Marc Blitzstein; Directed by John Doyle; Starring: Ken Barnett, Eddie Cooper, Benjamin Eakeley, David Garrison, Ian Lowe, Kara Mikula, Lara Pulver, Sally Ann Triplett, Rema Webb, and Tony Yazbeck
Sometimes you need to see a play because of its importance in the history of theater. Developed in the WPA's Federal Theatre Project during the Great Depression, THE CRADLE WILL ROCK is part of theater lore because its 1937 premiere—directed by Orson Welles—was shut down just before opening night (a thinly-veiled critique of the play’s pro-labor stance). Since "the show must go on," producers John Houseman and Orson Welles hurriedly rented another venue. That night, playwright Blitzstein played the piano, while the actors performed the "play in music" from amongst the audience (so they wouldn't be blamed for performing "on stage" without official approval). Today, while somewhat dated, the play--about the corrupting power of money--is also frighteningly relevant. Once again, the Classic Stage Company delivers a memorable evening in the theater with a terrific ensemble cast.

Mabou Mines Theater, 150 First Ave;; Until April 14, 2019
(photo: Richard Termine)
Adapted by Matthew Maguire from Goethe’s Faust; Directed by Sharon Ann Fogarty; Featuring: Benton Greene (Faust) & Paul Kandel (Mephistopheles) and 23 others on tape.

The good news is that Mabou Mines, the wonderfully-experimental theater company, has a nice new theater space at the recently-renovated 122 Community Center in the East Village. In 2020, the company celebrates its 50th anniversary! Right now, it's staging FAUST 2.0, a re-imagined Part II of Goethe’s masterwork, which finds the poor sap cruising-for-a-bruising with Mephistopheles and Helen of Troy and a host of other characters brought to you via video tape. If you are a fan of multimedia productions, you'll enjoy this. But, if you go to the theater to see live actors and to the movies if you want to see actors on tape, you'll be less pleased. But, Benton Greene does a great Dr. Faust--in the flesh.

THE PUBLIC THEATER - The Public Theater (425 Lafayette St.)
- Newman Theater, Until March 31, 2019
Both Shows Directed by Carrie Cracknell; Sea Wall: Written by Simon Stephens; Starring: Tom Sturridge; A Life: Written by Nick Payne; Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal
Gyllenhaal (photo: Joan Marcus)

It's to their credit, in this time of irresponsible discourse, that two young, prominent actors should choose to do such mature material. In SEA WALL/A LIFE, Tom Sturridge and Jake Gyllenhaal deliver two separate-but-equal, powerfully-moving monologues about love and loss. While you're probably familiar with Gyllenhaal's film work, this bona fide movie star is also a gifted stage performer. You may be less familiar with Tom Sturridge, but this dazzlingly-gifted British actor works his craft to perfection. (Sturridge was beyond brilliant in the Orphans' revival.) The SEA WALL/A LIFE monologues take you for an emotional ride, but Sturridge and Gyllenhaal know how to deliver the goods.

Playwrights Horizons (416 West 42nd St;;
Until April 5, 2019
Written by Tori Sampson; Directed by Leah C. Gardiner; Choreography by Raja Feather Kelly; Starring: Rotimi Agbabiaka (Chorus), Maechi Aharanwa (Ma), Jason Bowen (Dad), Antoinette Crowe-Legacy (Massassi), Leland Fowler (Kasim), Níke Uche Kadri (Akim), Mirirai Sithole (Adama), Phumzile Sitole (Kaya) & Carla R. Stewart (the Voice of the River)

Phumzile Sitole, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, Mirirai Sithole
(photo: Joan Marcus)

Here are two truisms: 1) It's always wonderful to see terrific actors of color on stage; 2) Women have been dogged for centuries by the concept of beauty and the unwarranted privileges that come with it. In If Pretty Hurts, three teenage girls in a mythical African location are rabidly jealous of a beautiful classmate. The three girls are wonderfully portrayed by Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, Phumzile Sitole, and Mirirai Sithole. Also superb are Maechi Aharanwa and Jason Bowen, the pretty girl's parents, along with Carla R. Stewart who has a fantastic voice. But, while If Pretty Hurts has joyous elements--great acting, upbeat music and awesome choreography--it's overly long and very short on plot. Plus, the American actors slip in and out of the African accent. So, a dramaturge and an accent coach would help. While millennials will probably get a kick out of the show, it's hard to believe that Playwrights Horizons--presenters of significant, beautifully-crafted works such as Driving Miss Daisy, I Am My Own Wife, Clybourne Park, Violet, etc.--would put this piece (still in much need of shaping and editing) on their Main Stage.

Center for Jewish History (15 West 16th St.);
Until March 20, 2019

Coco, Gad Elmaleh

The documentaries, and occasional movie & TV series, in this festival will introduce you to the fascinating world of the Sephardim--Jews kicked out of Spain/the Iberian Peninsula during the 15th century who relocated mainly to North Africa and the Middle East. Hence, the films illuminate life in such places as Morocco, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Yemeni and, of course, Israel. At this 22nd annual NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, there is also a focus on a Sephardi subset the Pieds-Noirs--who were forced to leave North Africa at the end of French rule in the early 1960s and mostly resettled in France. Film fans will be pleasantly surprised by all the interesting offerings including Q&As with the filmmakers, concerts, after parties, and master classes. You don't have to be Jewish or part of the Sephardim to thoroughly enjoy this festival!

136 East 13th Street (2 Shows, Until March 10, 2019)   
Adapted from Strindberg's Miss Julie by Yaël Farber; Directed by Shariffa Ali; Starring: Elise Kibler (Julie), James Udom (John), Patrice Johnson Chevannes (Christine) & Vinie Burrows (Ukhokho)
(photo: Joan Marcus)
Yaël Farber's brilliant adaptation of August Strindberg's play--about class struggle and sexual tension--relocates it from staid, late 19th-century Sweden to volatile, post-Apartheid South Africa adding race--another layer to the toxic, emotional mix. James Udom's tour de force performance as John is so electrifying it's as if he commands lighting down on stage to strike Julie in her reckless self-absorption, destroying lives--animal and human. In this not-to-be-missed version, the cook Christine is John's mother with her feet firmly planted in the past as his make a break for the future. [Mies Julie's "dance of death" is playing in repertory with Strindberg's other The Dance of Death.]
New Version of Strindberg's play by Conor McPherson; Directed by Victoria Clark; Starring: Cassie Beck (Alice), Richard Topol (Edgar) & Christopher Innvar (Kurt) - Written in 1900, this may be the first in a long line of tragic-comedies in which the featured couple loves to loath each other. Conor McPherson's contemporary adaptation takes this train wreck of a relationship and spins it on its axis with humor. Cassie Beck as Alice, the verbal dart-throwing wife, and Richard Topol as Edgar, the henpecked yet harassing husband, throw their punches with brio.
(photo: Joan Marcus)
Classic Stage Company presents larger-than-life productions in a small, intimate space. Theater fans, if you’re unfamiliar with CSC's work, it’s time to discover them!

FOR LOVE OF THE BARD - Calling All Teens, Tweens & Millennials
The Sheen Center (Black Box Theater, 18 Bleecker St;; Until March 17, 2019
(photo: Maria Baranova)
Somehow, in our time, Shakespeare's plays have come to represent highbrow entertainment. But, in the early 1600s when the works were performed at the open-air, Globe Theater in London, everyday folk thrilled to the joy, drama, and excitement of his plays. The Frog and Peach Theater's goal is to infuse that former level of enthusiasm and accessibility back into the works so the productions--while appealing to aficionados--will also attract those who've never given The Bard a chance--such as teens, tweens, and Millennials. Their latest offering, Twelfth Night, is such rollicking, good fun that even the most recalcitrant is likely to become a Shakespeare fan. (For those not in the know, "The Frog and Peach" was a funny bit by the late, great British comedians Peter Cook & Dudley Moore.)
(nysx.org3/2 & 3/9, 2019)
(photo: Martin Harris)
The ShakesBEER Pub Crawl is another great way to interest Millennials in the works of The Bard. Along with a libation (beer/wine/cocktail), the crowd is treated to scenes from such Shakespearean classics as The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, and As You Like It. The scenes take place in four different pubs and "sober" tickets are also available for those who love The Bard but not the ale. (New York Shakespeare Exchange also does an annual production in an actual theater, runs The Sonnet Project, the Freestyle Labs, and offers Shakespearean communal experiences.)
Samuel J. Friedman Theater, 261 West 47th St.; 
Extended to March 10, 2019 (with Pope as lead till Feb. 24)
Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Directed by Trip Cullman; Starring: Jeremy Pope, John Clay III, J. Quinton Johnson, Nicholas L. Ashe, Chuck Cooper, Caleb Eberhardt, Austin Pendleton, Daniel Bellomy, Jonathan Burke, Gerald Caesar, Marcus Gladney
(photo: Matthew Murphy)

In addition to some beautiful voices, this show delivers heart and soul. Adolescence is never easy, but when you're young, black, talented--and gay--life can throw you some extra-special curve balls. In the Manhattan Theatre Club's lovely presentation of CHOIR BOY, Jeremy Pope (Pharus), with the voice of an angel, is bedeviled by his classmates with their own set of issues. The tensions come to a boil in the "hothouse" setting of an exclusive boarding school--a prep school--for on-the-rise black boys. Pharus strives to become a man, his own person, and the leader of this extraordinary choir. J. Quinton Johnson (Bobby) is his tormented torturer, Caleb Eberhardt (David) his conflicted secret admirer, and John Clay III (AJ) the wise roomie who sets him "straight." A joyous night in the theater. Plus, the singing will knock your socks off.

For Tweens, Teens & Adults
If you missed this incredible presentation at The New Victory theater last year, luckily you have a second chance to see it. A reprise takes place at La Mama (Jan 24-Feb 3, 2019). Since it's such a short run, don't delay, get tickets now! 
LaMama (66 East 4th St); Until Feb. 3, 2019; For ages 12 & up
Conceived by Ping Chong; Written & directed by Sara Zatz & Kirya Traber in collaboration with the cast. Cast: Edwin Aguila, Monica Victoria Tatacoya Castañeda, Andrea "Syl" Egerton, Mohammad Murtaza, De-Andra Pryce, Porscha Polkahantis Rippy & Rafael Rosario

Ping Chong + Company's extraordinary presentation will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you care.
For GENERATION NYZ is a celebration of humanity's diversity and how we are all more similar than different. It is the story of seven amazing young adults who could have easily fallen through the cracks of life. Born into poverty, hopelessness, neglect, and confusion, each one of them--through a combination of personal perseverance, the kindness of strangers (teachers and mentors), and a splash of luck--saw a vision of what could be for themselves and forged ahead to actualize that dream. The cast represents the “gorgeous mosaic" of New York, celebrating their heritage--Black, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Caribbean, South Asian, and European--and the neighborhoods they grew up in: the South Bronx, West Harlem, Far Rockaway, Queens, and East New York, Brooklyn. This show is so dope, woke and cool, it should be extended. And, hopefully, filmed to be shown in every school and college across the country to give all kids who are dazed-and-confused an infusion of hope.

For Adults & Sophisticated Teens
The same goes for this mind-blowing show. If you missed it at The Public Theater about ten years ago, here's your chance to experience some extraordinary theater. It's a short run at NYU Skirball (Jan 23-Feb3, 2019), so get tickets today!

NYU Skirball (566 LaGuardia Place); Until Feb. 3, 2019
Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald; Directed by John Collins; Performed by ERS' ensemble with Scott Shepherd as Nick.

The theater company, Elevator Repair Service, pays homage to the written word--often to those of great American novelists--in fascinating and brilliantly-innovative productions. GATZ is ERS' acclaimed, not-to-be-missed, word-for-word enactment of The Great Gatsby. That's right--six hours of performance, worth every second, with its' committed ensemble of terrific actors. No more to be said, because part of the thrill of this show is experiencing the way it unfolds and sucks you in. Soon you are no longer listening to a novel being read, you are there on Long Island in West and East Egg with the beautiful, careless people.
Practical: It lasts about 8 hours (the show, plus 2 intermissions & a dinner break). Bring a seat cushion, a back-support pillow, and believe in the green light!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Paris: View Art in 7 Unexpected Places

By Jacquelin Carnegie – (Paris, France)
Paris is a city filled with art everywhere you turn, not only in its famous museums, but also in some of the most unexpected places:

Galerie des Galeries - Les Galeries Lafayette
40 Blvd Haussmann; Tel: 01/42-82-81-98;

GL, Au dela du vetement  (photo: Marc Domange)
9th arrondissement, Metro: Chaussée d'Antin
(Open: Tues-Sun, 11am-7pm; Free)

Shop till you drop, then proceed to the 1st floor of the Galeries Lafayette’s main building. Across from the designers’ section, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find the Galerie des Galeries, an exhibition space that presents established and emerging talent. Four annual exhibits showcase French and international artists, highlighting the relationship between fashion, the visual arts, and design. 


Parc de Belleville
Rue des Couronnes (enter at rue Piat);; 20th arrondissement, Metro: Belleville or Pyrénées
Street Art (photo: J. Carnegie)
The Belleville neighborhood is a melting pot of cultures. In the park, at the top of a hill, is a lookout point decorated with wonderful street art, often the work of community projects. The park itself is beautiful, accessible from a staircase, then up 
winding pathways past vine-covered pergolas. It’s worth the climb for the street art and the spectacular views of Paris--yes, you can see the Eiffel Tower from here.

Maxim’s Museum

3 rue Royale; Tel: 01/42-65-30-47; arrondissement, Metro: Concorde (Tours for groups: Fee, reservation required,
Ever wonder what it was like to be at Maxim’s in its heyday? Above the famous restaurant, there’s a recreated apartment of a Belle Époque courtesan. The 12 rooms are decorated with an exceptional collection of Art Nouveau objets d’art and furnishings by Tiffany, Gallé, Majorelle, Massier, and other notable artisans – all part of “La Collection 1900” presented by the restaurant’s current owner, renowned fashion designer Pierre Cardin. On the tour, you’ll see what entertaining was like during the Belle Époque.

Art District Gallery
- Le Royal Monceau Hotel
41 Ave Hoche; Tel: 01/42-99-98-81;   
8th arrondissement, Metro: Charles de Gaulle Étoile or Ternes

(Open: Tues-Sat, 11am-7pm; Sun, 2-7pm; Free)
Art lives at this snazzy hotel, renovated by famed designer Philippe Starck. The Art District Gallery puts on about four annual exhibits of contemporary work by important photographers, visual artists, and designers--retrospectives and premieres. The hotel also has an impressive art bookstore, La Librairie des Arts, and a dedicated “art concierge” to help guests get the most out of the Paris art scene.

Lafayette Anticipations
9 Rue du Plâtre; Tel: 01/57-40-64-17;
4th arrondissement, Metro: Rambuteau or Hôtel de Ville
(Open: Thurs-Sat, 11am-10pm; Sun-Mon, 11am-8pm; Fee but Free on Fri, 6-10pm)
Julien Creuzet, In my hands
(photo: Pierre Antoine)

In the chic Marais district, the Fondation Galeries Lafayette had starchitect Rem Koolhaas/OMA transform a 19-century department store warehouse into a truly cool new contemporary art, performance and exhibition space for local and international work. The space also serves as an "arts incubator"--providing artists the room to work on new creations. In addition to viewing exhibits & performances, you can take a fascinating architectural tour of the building. Afterwards, hangout in the lobby atrium, have an ultra-healthy snack at the Wild & the Moon cafe, and check out the trendy À Rebours boutique in the covered passageway that connects rue du Plâtre with rue Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie.

Le M.U.R.
Corner of rue Oberkampf & rue Saint Maur; 11th arrondissement, Metro: Parmentier or Rue St-Maur;
Le M.U.R., Lady M (photo: H. Laxenaire)
Artist Jean Faucheur, founder of “The Wall” - Le M.U.R. (Modulable, Urbain, Réactif), came up with the concept of putting original works of art by contemporary, urban artists up on a wall on the rue Oberkampf in the 11th arrondissement. Every two weeks, the artwork changes. Since there are two great cafés, La Place Verte (105 rue Oberkampf), right in front of the wall, and the famous Café Charbon (109 rue Oberkampf), just behind it, you’ve got reason enough to stop by often to check out The Wall.

Les Frigos (photo: Mbzt/WikiCommons)
Les Frigos
19 rue des Frigos;; 13th arrondissement, Metro: Bibliothèque François Mitterrand

(Open: On Open House days or by appointment with one of the artists)
J-P Reti

Les Frigos (photo: Prissantenbär/WikiCommons)
This former industrial area, on the Seine in the 13th arrondissement, was transformed into a neighborhood that looks like The Jetsons live here. One of the few buildings to survive gentrification is Les Frigos (The Refrigerators), a former storage depot for fresh produce brought into Paris by train. Now, it provides studio space for some 120 eclectic creatives. You can visit the artists' studios on Portes Ouvertes (Open House) days, usually at the end of May. At other times, certain artists hold Open Studio events. You can also view each artist’s work on the website and contact them directly. The fascinating sculptor, Jean-Paul Reti, is the unofficial “mayor” of Les Frigos and, if he’s not busy working on his art, he’s happy to explain the background of the building to visitors.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

New York: Theater, Off-Broadway Buzz, FALL 2018

By Jacquelin Carnegie - (New York, NY)
Friendly Reminder: Off- and Off-Off Broadway shows have limited runs, so get tickets right away.

HERE, 145 6th Ave., (Enter on Dominick St); Until Dec. 23, 2018
The Apple Boys (photo: Steven Menendez)

Johnnie Moore Hawkins' Heart On Sleeve Productions presents:
Book by Jonothon Lyons; Music & Lyrics by Ben Bonnema; Directed by David Alpert; Starring: Jonothon Lyons, Amanda Ryan Paige, Jelani Remy & Teddy Yudain 

If the holiday season has gotten you in a bah-humbug mood, THE APPLE BOYS is the perfect antidote--rip-roaringly funny and pitch perfect. But the show offers much more than great harmonies, it's a nostalgic look back at Coney Island at the turn-of-the-20th-century. Back when: Nathan was still selling 5-cent hot dogs from a pushcart; The World’s Strongest Man hadn't yet won his title; the best roller coaster designer only had sketches, and Johnny Appleseed’s grandson was tending the family orchard in Brooklyn. These four terrific performers bring this period piece to life with innovative props, irreverent humor, and lots of good, old-fashioned fun! The joy of hearing a barbershop quartet never grows old. Cue the mustaches, the matching vests and straw hats!

Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th St;; Until Dec. 22, 2018
Written by Bertolt Brecht; Directed by John Doyle; Starring: Raúl Esparza, George Abud, Eddie Cooper, Elizabeth A. Davis, Christopher Gurr, Omozé Idehenre, Mahira Kakkar, Thom Sesma
Raúl Esparza (photo: Joan Marcus)

Snug in his Berlin grave, playwright Bertolt Brecht should be thrilled that his 1941 chilling satire, ARTURO UI, has been re-staged by the infinitely-imaginative director John Doyle, the Classic Stage Company's Artistic Director. The play--it's Brecht, so depressingly prescient--detailing the evil, dare-doings of a Chicago mob is really about Adolf Hitler's rise to power (and now about the orange menace in the White House). Your flesh will crawl as chants of Sieg Heil morph into "Lock Her Up!" The drama is brought to life by a terrific and diverse ensemble cast--notably, Eddie Cooper (Roma), George Abud (Clark), Christopher Gurr (Dogsborough), and Thom Sesma (Givola)--led by the always-fantastic Raúl Esparza (Ui), who delivers a one-two punch to democracy and decency. Classic Stage Company consistently delivers terrific, larger-than-life productions in a small, intimate space. Theater fans, if you’re unfamiliar with CSC's work, it’s time to discover them!

Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St; Until Dec. 30, 2018
Written by & Featuring: Heather Raffo; Directed by Joanna Settle; Starring: Heather Raffo (Noura), Nabil Elouahabi (Tareq), Liam Campora (Yazen), Matthew David (Rafa’a) & Dahlia Azama (Maryam)
NOURA (photo: Joan Marcus)

Kudos to Playwrights Horizons and the Shakespeare Theatre Company for boldly presenting the cares and woes of immigrants on stage. While this particular production deals with the hopes and dreams of an Iraqi extended family--both Christian and Muslim--now living in New York, the sentiments expressed in NOURA are felt by all those who've been forced to flee their homeland due to political violence, war, and destruction. There is a cornucopia of mixed emotions: survivor's guilt; the thrill of starting a new life tinged with sadness for all that's been lost and left behind; and the underlying, heart-wrenching reality that even if one went back, "there is no there there"--the hometown or village has been destroyed and all the inhabitants have been scattered to the four winds. This is the situation for Noura, beautifully portrayed by the playwright herself, Heather Raffo. After eight years as refugees in America, she, her husband and young son have just received their U.S. passports. But, this happy rite of passage does nothing but stir up ghosts from the past for Noura. Iraqis lived in tight-knit communities; Americans--especially New Yorkers--thrive on anonymity. Even connecting with an old family friend and helping a young Iraqi refugee escape the destruction of Mosul and start a new life in the States does not bring solace. It's fascinating to watch an Iraqi's family life unfold on a New York stage. The ensemble cast is fantastic and Andrew Lieberman's set is perfection. This play is really worth seeing, but the playwright does need to go back to the drawing board for an ending.

THE PUBLIC THEATER (2 Plays) - The Public Theater (425 Lafayette St.)
LuEsther Hall, Until Dec. 9, 2018

(photo: Joan Marcus)

Written by Patricia Ione Lloyd; Directed by Jo Bonney; Starring: De’Adre Aziza (Deborah), Kadijah Raquel (Lauren), Karl Green (Mark), Ashley D. Kelley (Upendo), Vernice Miller, Rachel Watson-Jih & Tamara M. Williams (Spirit Women)
While young blacks are being shot in cold blood all over America, a middle-class black family feels safe in their own comfy home--but not for long. Soon, cracks begin to form--literally and figuratively--in this perfect facade and safe haven: the confidant, career-woman, mother is getting divorced at home and harassed at work; the teenage daughter comes out, discovers love, lust, and activism, along with delusion and disappointment; the young son--dazed and confused--becomes more so. As the house literally falls apart, the family is visited by ghostly "spirits"--perhaps prophecies of the fate that awaits each one of them. Amid the chaos, De’Adre Aziza, as the concerned mom Deborah, and Kadijah Raquel, as the defiant daughter Lauren, light up the stage.

Martinson Hall, Until Dec. 16, 2018
(photo: Joan Marcus)
           Written by Hansol Jung; Directed by Leigh Silverman; Starring: Francis Jue (Father), Peter Kim (Guk Minsung), Michelle Krusiec (Yoo Nanhee), Jaygee Macapugay (Wife/Chorus), Kendyl Ito (Daughter/Chorus)

A South Korean man whose wife and children have moved to America for a better life is called a “goose father.” This is Minsung's fate. Deeply lonely, he becomes more and more detached from the every day and lives life online connecting with others only through social media. (This online life is beautifully and imaginatively staged.) Nanhee, a young North Korean defector, is also lonely and adrift as well as deeply guilty for leaving her aging father behind. These two damaged souls meet on a dating site, but struggle to admit they're falling in love. While he's haunted by his estranged wife & daughter, her dreams and waking hours are haunted by her aging, abandoned father. This is a sad, yet funny, beautiful tale of modern love and woe.

Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St; Until Nov. 25, 2018
Written by Larissa FastHorse; Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel; Starring: Jennifer Bareilles, Jeffrey Bean, Greg Keller, Margo Seibert

(photo: Joan  Marcus)  

Just in time for Turkey Day, a Lakota Indian has written a Thanksgiving Day farce: a group of white, liberal-minded educators at an elementary school bungle their way through the process of creating a Thanksgiving pageant to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. While the well-meaning-but-clueless bunch try to get their (the) act together, mayhem ensues. They hire a Native American actor who turns out not to be. To create culturally-sensitive scenes, they improv politically-incorrect sketches. Their due-diligence research--instead of unearthing cozy tales of Pilgrim-Indian meal sharing--reveals all the atrocities committed against indigenous peoples. Beneath the high jinx and belly laughs, playwright Larissa FastHorse, a member of the Sicangu Lakota nation of South Dakota, lays bare the sorry truth: indigenous peoples have rarely been included in history, at the table, or on stage.

Ars Nova, 511 West 54th St;; Until Nov.10, 2018
RAGS' cast (photo: Ben Arons Photography)

Book, Music & Lyrics by: Andrew R. Butler; Directed by Jordan Fein; Starring: Andrew R. Butler (Rags Parkland), Stacey Sargeant (Beaux Weathers), Rick Burkhardt (Rick), Tony Jarvis (Gill), Jessie Linden (Devo), & Debbie Christine Tjong (Ess Pinvint)
There seems to be a trend of musicians creating performance art pieces and calling it theater. First, The Bengsons; now, the multi-talented Andrew R. Butler with RAGS PARKLAND. While the music is wonderful and there is a storyline--about life in a dystopian future--it's not what would be traditionally referred to as "theater." So, if you're looking for character development, plot arcs, and dramatic denouement, you'll be disappointed. But, if you’re open to an evening of spirited folk-rock tunes sung by an engaging group of performers, you'll have a great time at this disarmingly-charming show.
Ars Nova presents an amazing array of groovy productions. Their mission is to support unique theater, music, and comedy artists in developing surprising new work. If Ars Nova is not on your entertainment radar, it should be!

For Adults
A Theatrical Memo on Anna Politkovskaya
122CC, Second Floor Theater, 150 First Ave (at 9th St); Until Oct.14, 2018

Written by Stefano Massini (Translation by Paula Wing); Directed by Lee Sunday Evans; Starring: Nadine Malouf, Nicole Shalhoub & Stacey Yen
Anna Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist, whose nerves of steel, compelled her to report on the atrocities of the war in Chechnya, coupled with Soviet government suppression. For these acts of bravery, she was murdered in Moscow in 2006. While Russia tried to silence her with death, her words live on.
INTRACTABLE WOMAN is playwright Stefano Massini's effort to give her back her voice. 
Anna's story is brought to life by three young, commanding performers: Nadine Malouf, Nicole Shalhoub, and Stacey Yen. Speaking truth to power is always risky, but in some places in this world, it's also life threatening. It's especially perilous for journalists working to uncover corruption in oppressive regimes. Yet, reporters continue to investigate, feeling duty--and perhaps morally--bound to reveal the depravity and dishonesty. 
The Play Company (PlayCo) presents way-cool, international plays with unique points of view and out-of-the-ordinary stagings, expanding theatrical horizons. Theater lovers check out this show as well as PlayCo's other fascinating, upcoming productions.

IAC, 553 West 51st St (near 11th Ave); Until Oct. 21, 2018
Written & Performed by Mikel Murfi

If you'd like to travel to a quaint, Irish village without leaving New York, here's your chance. With these one-man shows, acclaimed Irish writer and performer Mikel Murfi brings an entire Irish parish to life--townsfolk and farm animals alike--revealing their joyful and bittersweet daily existence. While the characters are a tad stereotypical--you almost expert Murfi to start chatting with a Leprechaun--they are charmingly so. You'll be pining for a pint of Guinness by the end of the show. These companion plays, The Man in the Woman’s Shoes & I Hear You and Rejoice, are performed in repertory. The plays stand alone, so you could see either one. But, if you'd like to see both, I'd recommend starting with Shoes.
Irish Arts Center (IAC) is a treasure-trove of Irish cultural activities. Throughout the year attend plays, concerts, dance performances, films, lectures and readings. 

For Kids
New Victory Theater (209 West 42nd St); Until Nov. 11, 2018, For ages 6 & up

Presented by New International Encounter (NIE) with Cambridge Junction & Tobacco Factory Theatres; Directed by Alex Byrne; Starring: Martin Bonger (The Beast), Sara Lessore (Isabella), Elliot Davis & Samantha Sutherland (Anastasia & Latrice), Ben Tolley (Maurice Le Grange)
You may have taken your children to see Beauty and The Beast before, but this pared-down staging is so enchanting and delightful, it puts other versions to shame. The re-telling of this now famous tale is done with such giddy glee by this engaging, energetic troupe of actors/musicians that children and their parents will be utterly enthralled.
Editor's Note: In addition to this wonderful stage version, introduce your children to Jean Cocteau's fabulous film, La Belle et la Bête (1946), far better than Disney's.

New Victory Theater (209 West 42nd St); Until Oct. 20, 2018, For ages 4-7

Nobody does a better job than The New Vic at introducing kids to all types of performances--plays, musicals, circus, etc.--and familiarizing them with different cultures from around the world. Up now is Tinga Tinga Tales, a lively and colorful musical from Kenya. Your kids can sing- and dance-along to upbeat African rhythms as they meet a very friendly bunch of jungle animals--all with great singing voices--who recount some tall, African folk tales. The show is based on the popular books and international cartoon series. If you're a parent with young children, get a family subscription to all The New Vic's amazing shows.

CMX CinéBistro Movie Theatre
400 East 62nd St; (Opens in NYC on Oct. 18, 2018)

You've been to the movies before, but not like this! CMX CinéBistro is the newest, coolest concept for movie fans--offering a luxurious dinner-and-a-movie experience--that's perfect for date night or any night. First, the six movie auditoriums range from an intimate 50 to 60 seats like being in your own private projection room. The oversized, reclining seats have foot/leg rests and private tray tables like traveling first-class in an airplane! The look and sound of the films is sharp and crisp. The theater’s tasty menu, designed by chef Isaac Stewart, has everything from a simple salad and sandwich to interesting appetizers such as Duck Machaca to delicious entrées like Shrimp Fried Rice or Pan Seared Salmon, followed by creamy desserts. There's an assortment of fine wines and handcrafted cocktails. And, yes, popcorn and candy. All of these items are brought right to your seat by very friendly and professional servers. This is such a delightful, movie-going experience, you won't want to leave at the end of the film. But, you can head to the lounge for a drink!
The Lowdown: Go to the CMX website, pick & pay for your film and seat selection. Arrive 30 minutes before showtime to order & enjoy the in-theatre dining experience. Here's another great feature: No kids allowed at evening screenings; must be 21+ to get in after 6pm. (Ticket Cost: Daytime, $17; Week Nights, $20; Weekends, $25)