From White Plains, Much Ado About Nothing, and Donnybrook!

A provocative White Plains, a terrific Much Ado, and a charming Donnybrook!

From White Plains   (3 ½ stars)
Much Ado About Nothing   (4 ½ stars)
Donnybrook!   (3 ½ stars)

From White Plains, an interesting play about the long-term effects of bullying written and directed by Michael Perlman, is a double-edged sword.  What’s good about it (and there’s plenty) is really good.  But what’s problematic about it (and there’s plenty of that, too) makes watching it a frustrating experience.  With the tag line, “just because it gets better doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” Perlman clearly wants to incite controversy.  Dennis (Karl Gregory), a gay filmmaker, calls out the straight Ethan (Aaron Rossini) on national television (winning an Oscar, of course) as a childhood bully who tormented him, as well as a friend who subsequently took his own life.  Ethan struggles to come to terms with what he did in high school with the help of his friend John (Craig Wesley Divino), while Dennis finds his relationship with Greg (Jimmy King) spiraling out of control in the face of his obsessive (some would say psychotic) desire to destroy Ethan’s life.  Unfortunately, both the writing and acting vacillate between being authentic and contrived.  Still, despite its flaws From White Plains contains moments of gripping theatre and couldn’t be timelier.

Theatre for a New Audience’s terrific new production of Much Ado About Nothing boasts magnetic performances by the winsome Maggie Siff and the handsome Jonathan Cake as Beatrice & Benedick.  Crisply directed by Arin Arbus in the intimate Duke on 42nd Street, the supporting cast for this Much Ado is uniformly strong and makes Shakespeare’s timeless drama come vividly alive.  And you won’t be able to take your eyes of Cake, who’s as sexy as he is aptly named.

After revivals of Carrie and Moose Murders, it’s no surprise the Irish Rep has dusted off Donnybrook!, a short-lived Broadway debacle from 1961 notable for its score by the great Johnny Burke, and the presence of the fabulous Susan Johnson.  A musical version of John Ford’s 1952 film, A Quiet Man, that famously paired John Wayne as a retired American boxer who returns to the Irish village of his birth and falls in love with Maureen O’Hara, the surprise is how charming Donnybrook! remains.  The credit goes to a strong cast, starring the wonderful James Barbour and Jenny Powers along with Patrick Cummings, Kathy Fitzgerald and Samuel Cohen, as well as Burke’s score which has been greatly altered and augmented with two of his biggest hits, “It Could Happen To You” and “But Beautiful.”

Fault Line Theatre’s From White Plains plays through March 9 at Signature (480 W 42nd St, FaultLineTheatre.org).  TFANA’s Much Ado About Nothing plays through April 6 at The Duke (229 W 42nd St, www.TFANA.org).  Donnybrook! Plays through March 31 at Irish Rep (132 W 22nd St, IrishRep.org).

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