insightful in-depth reviews

Written on Skin, music by George Benjamin, libretto by Martin Crimp. Opera Philadelphia, February 2018.

The Opera Philadelphia production of this opera — its first original staging in the United States — is a triumph. It was a risky endeavor that paid off with superb music, tantalizing drama, and is an exciting crowd pleaser.

This success was by no means assured, because the music is labeled as atonal, a word that scares many opera-goers. The term is misleading; it does not literally mean that tones are lacking. All music consists of tones, of course, and even the most “atonal” writing …

Waitress the musical

Waitress. Music by Sara Bareilles. Directed by Diane Paulus. National tour production at the Forrest Theater in Philadelphia, February 2018.

Waitress is a feminist fable with an indelible heroine, played on this national tour by Desi Oakley. She is adorable, and helpful to her friends as she endures a demeaning marriage to a thuggish man. What’s more, Miss Oakley has a lovely voice that surpasses that of Jessie Mueller who originated the role on Broadway.

A waitress named Jenna works in a diner in the American South and also bakes the diner’s pies, giving …

Revolutionists: liberté, égalité, sororité

The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson; directed by Kathryn MacMillan at Theatre Horizon in Norristown, PA, February 2018.

This play, part of Theatre Horizon’s “Women Who Dare”“ season, presents women during the French Revolution who speak to us with modern language and sassy attitudes. It works best as a comedy with its flippant, irreverent gags, and not so well when it turns melodramatic.

The set by Brian Dudekiewicz is intentionally off-kilter, with trapezoidal walls and a tilted chandelier. We are in 1793, during the Reign of Terror — after the execution of King Louis XVI and before the emergence of …

Cold Harbor -- Guare's journey begins

Cold Harbor by John Guare. Directed by Lane Savadove. EgoPo Classic Theater in Philadelphia, February 2018

The first part of John Guare’s Lydie Breeze trilogy is unlike any work I’ve ever seen in its vast scope. The most apt comparison is to the Iliad and Odyssey. While not at that sublime level, Guare’s creation does share Homer’s epic style of story-telling.

Multiple plot lines unfold during this exploration of America’s historic experiences. The Civil War battle of Cold Harbor Virginia, analogous to the Trojan War, reveals extreme bloodshed. A …

From The Publisher

The Cultural Critic is where thoughtful readers turn for in-depth reviews of artistic events and travel experiences. Our aim is to cover a wide range throughout every category. From theater to book critiques, travel to opera experiences, music to art analysis, The Cultural Critic is your destination for the most comprehensive reviews.

We are proud to have cultural historian Steve Cohen as our lead critic. He is a broadcaster and journalist with degrees in music, theater and communications.

Geoffrey Dobrien, President

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