Theater Reviews

Mother

EmmyAward winners Holland Taylor and Buck Henry starred in Motherby Lisa Ebersole, which played at The Wild Project in New York duringJuly and August 2009. Photo credit: Alison Cartwright

Buck Henry and Holland Taylor romp through Mother,Lisa Ebersole’s new play... Under Andrew Grosso's precisedirection, the cast navigates complicated physical business and allthat chatter with utter conviction. It's impressive to watch.
- Erik Haagensen, Backstage

Director Andrew Grosso has an agreeable sense of flow andelicits generally strong performances, especially from Holland Taylorand Buck Henry.
- Michael Bracken, METRO


 

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Perfect Harmony


The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row, Fall 2010
Bleecker Street Theatre, Fall 2010
Stoneham Theatre, Summer 2010
The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row, Summer 2008
The New York International Fringe Festival, The Harry de Jur Playhouse, Summer 2006
September 2006, FringeNYC Encores Series @ The 14th Street Y, Fall 2006
NYU Graduate Acting, Studio Tisch, Summer 2005
  • Selected for Smith & Krause:
    • Best Male Monologues 2009
    • Best Female Monologues 2009
    • Best Scenes 2009
Perfect Harmony has “an abundance of heart. This likablemusic-filled comedy, by Andrew Grosso and the Essentials, featuresrival high-school a-cappella groups, the Acafellas and the Ladies inRed, who, in the course of preparing for nationals, train, freak out,stop speaking, and overcome their differences—andthat’s just within the teams themselves. Written andperformed with an acute understanding of the anxieties and quirks ofyoung achievers, the show derives much of its charm from the strange,horrible magic of the a-cappella genre: the exacting deployment ofpitch, harmony, and musical arrangement joined with irony, pop culture,and earnestness. The singing and acting are strong, and the songchoices hilarious.”
- The New Yorker

“See this silly musical with glee! Chock full of quirkycharacters,absurd plot developments, and energetic vocals that soar.It’s hardto resist a show in which a boy exhorts his partners, “Allright, dudes, sing it from your nuts!” before launching intoa spirited rendition of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
- The New York Post

“Perfect Harmony has perfect pitch! What makes PerfectHarmony borderline brilliant is the combination of a seriously funnyscript and an ensemble of seriously polished actors.”
- The Boston Herald

“A lighthearted, sweet musical comedy features a talentedcast of tenwho enact their characters with freshness and enthusiasm and deliversnappy and often very funny dialogue in between engaging musicalnumbers. The singing and harmonizations are pleasing, Perfect Harmonyis a fond satire of teenage social misfits and a perfectlyentertaining, melodious little musical.
- The Associated Press (AP)

“Perfectly sweet. The cast isoutstanding. Perfect Harmony is pure joy. It would be easy to envisionthis production having a Broadway address in the very nearfuture.”
-Jason S. Grossman, NYTheatre.com

“Unbearably funny. Riotous. Never fails to delight.”
-Matthew Murray, TalkingBroadway

“Talented singers, a delightful combination of silly andsophisticated humor, endearing characters, and many opportunities tofind yourself laughing out loud. For an evening of wide-rangeentertainment, this one hits just the right note.!”
-Laurie Lawson. ElectronicLink Journey

“Nearly indescribable hilarity. Perfect Harmony’sextraordinary cast and impeccable script combine for a performancewhose non-stop comedy must be seen to be believed.”
-Sara Hottman. ShowBusiness Weekly

“The vocal harmonies are undeniably impressive, and theconsistently funny troupe of actors creates a true ensemble piece.It’s topical and silly and you’ll have a greatevening.”
- Mary Block. The LMagazine

“So perfectly, gorgeously wicked. Amazing cast. We will beseeing Perfect Harmony for a long time to come!”
- Eugene Paul. TheatreScene.Net

“The Essentials takes a high school a cappella championshipand turns it into winning comedy and drama. Perfect Harmony is young,exuberant, over-the-top, and at times, unexpectedly moving.”
- Paulanne Simmons. CurtainUp

“I loved it. It’s laugh out-loud funny.”
- Retta Blaney. Life onthe Sacred Stage

“Dynamic character relationships and hilarious comedic actingmakePerfect Harmony something to sing about. Perfect Harmony is a fun showthat brings new dynamics to a overdone concept in today’sentertainment scene. In the last two years I have seen a handful ofshows about glee clubs and show choirs in addition to being a bit of a“Gleek” myself. While Perfect Harmony’sconcept isn’t anything new, the fresh comedic energy and thesmart twists are certainly unique. Perfect Harmony will leave youchuckling and humming its tunes for days.
- Theatre is Easy

“Any Glee fans? Well this musical is right up your alley! Theclever script keeps the audience giggling and with the toe-tappingsongs, leaves us with that feel-good warmth by the end!- The Examiner


“Thoroughly entertaining. This show is a guilty pleasure. Thewriting is full of tiny, quick verbal surprises and original moments,and the cast is uniformly high energy.it. It’s laugh out-loudfunny.”
- Suzanne Lynch, offoffonline.com

“This play nailed the earth shattering impact that (the acappella) scene can have on a awkward teen looking for something tobelieve in. Thumbs up.”
- David Bell, ShowShowdown

“The performances are funny without being trivial; theseactors can not only do comedy, but they sing and do preciselychoreographed movements while singing and acting, all to the level ofperfection the scene calls for. Snaps to them and everyoneinvolved.”
- Jeremiah Tash. EdgeNew York City

PerfectHarmony is sharp as a blade. The performances aremagnificently hilarious. The harmonies — typically absurdversions of pop songs — range from lovely to ridiculous toriotous. They help to make Perfect Harmony as close to perfect as anyFringe show can be.
- Leonard Jacobs, Backstage

Pitch perfect! A hysterical lookinside the high-pressure world of high school a cappella singing, Perfect Harmony reminds us of why wehave the prolific Fringe Festival: to find the plays that deservebigger stages and, if possible, a longer applause.
-Rachel Wynn, Show BusinessWeekl

Well-nighperfection, as the title promises!
David Finkle, TheatreMania

PerfectHarmony is a charming mockumentary. Terrific.It was a joy to watch such sensational performers!
- David Hurst, Next Magazine

Taming of the Shrew



(photo by Jim Baldassare)

January 16th &February 10th, 2007, Roundtable Ensemble
Presented by the Roundtable Ensemble
at the American Theatre ofActors, 314 W. 54th St.,NYC
Wed, Fri, Sun @ 8pm; Sat @ 3pm


  • FlavorpillPick!
  • Hi-Five Pickof the Week!
  • Chosen one of The NewTheatre CorpsFive Favorites!
  • NYTheatre.comEditor's Pick!

In this highly engaging production of Shakespeare's classic battle ofthe sexes, seven actors play 23 roles in a fast-paced play within aplay.... Under Grosso's inspired direction, B. Brian Argotsinger,Arthur Aulisi, Tom Butler, Autumn Dornfeld, Jonathan Kells Phillips,Alex Smith, and Paul Whitthorne showcase their versatility in highlyphysical, energetic ensemble work.... It's a delightful production; theacting is surprising, the stage business brims with life, and theElizabethan text leaps off the page, becoming entirely accessible....This Shrew is a highly theatrical, entertaining production... See it.
- Nancy Ellen Shore, Backstage

The Round Table Ensemble's latest production uses sevenactors for the 23 roles of Bill Shakespeare's The Taming ofthe Shrew, doling it out as a 90-minute booster shot for oneof the Bard's more misogynistic pieces. The fact that Katrina is playedby a man in this production may assuage feminist fears; that the entireshow takes place behind the scenes of a USO production of Shrewshould ease the "been there, done that" trauma of bad festivalproductions and 10 Things I Hate About You. Apostmodernist Shakespeare would be proud. (FK)
-(FK) , Flavorpill



The principal pleasure of the Roundtable Ensemble's currentproduction of Shakespeare's TheTaming of the Shrew is the cast's ability to convince usthat the whole play is being improvised. Director Andrew Grosso'sconcept that the whole thing is being played out backstage at a USOshow as a sort of competition between military officers andentertainers gives the actors a good excuse to madly switch offcharacters, and seemingly riff off each other's cues... it's a greatshowcase for this acting talent.

The basic story is well-known: As a joke, a group of menconvince the drunken Christopher Sly that he actually is a nobleman andperform a play for him. The play involves a Signor Baptista's twodaughters: ill-tempered Katherina and beautiful Bianca. Lucentio wantsto marry Bianca, as do two other suitors, but Baptista won't marryBianca off until Katherina is married first. Petruchio, seeking a wifewho will make him rich, arrives and agrees to woo Kate. She puts upquite a fight, demeaning him with volley after volley of invective, butPetruchio still announces they will be married. Her insults arereturned when he shows up late to the wedding and then proceeds todeprive her of food, claiming that it isn't good enough for her. Biancaand Lucentio are married after a series of incidents involvingdisguises and mistaken identity, and Hortensio marries a widow (in thisproduction Christopher Sly is inspired to jump into the on-stage actionto portray the widow), and all are surprised that it is Bianca, notKate, that is uncooperative at the group wedding banquet.

The production moves quickly and is performed in one 90-minuteact... The size of the cast is economical, too: each of the actors(aside from Kate, Petruchio, and Sly) plays multiple roles and oftenthey are frantically switching between characters... the cast does avery good job of keeping it clear who is who, even when performingseveral roles within one scene! They excel at putting on variousaccents and genders, not to mention costume pieces, and it's all doneto great comic effect.

Each of the players is worth mentioning. Tom Butler'sPetruchio is a swaggering soldier at the beginning, but layers of depthare revealed as he pursues and "tames" Kate. Paul Whitthorne is aprissy, sour Kate, which is appropriate, but he makes his journey toher final submission a believable one and becomes a much warmerpresence. Autumn Dornfeld is terrific in several roles including Biancaand Gremio. Jonathan Kells Phillips has come up with some very funnycharacterizations, including a Pedant who seems to owe something to JimBackus of Gilligan's Island. B. Brian Argotsingerputs his nebbishy persona to good use throughout and Alex Smith provesto be the most chameleonic, taking on no less than 9 roles, sometimesswitching characters from line to line.



Arthur Aulisi is Awesome

Ironically, however, it is the actor with the least stage timewho makes the most lasting impression. Arthur Aulisi is genuinelytouching as the drunkard Sly, who watches the whole play from the firstrow of the audience and is so moved and enchanted by the spell of thestorytelling that he joins the actors on stage to play the widow in thefinal scene. For the conclusion of the play, Aulisi plays Sly as morechildlike than drunk, and Grosso adds in Rosalind's epilogue from As You Like It for Sly todeliver following his "performance" as the widow. Again, Aulisi isgentle and touching in this humorous "apology" for the bad behavior ofboth men and women in Shrew:

I charge you, O women, for the love you bear to men,to like as much of this play as please you: and I charge you, O men,for the love you bear to women—as I perceive by yoursimpering, none of you hates them—that between you and thewomen the play may please.


The staging includes a good deal of expertly-executedslapstick (Teddy Cañez is credited as fight coordinator).The set mostly consists of the Chernuchin Theatre's permanent catwalkwhich is smartly used, and there are some appropriate period props onthe stage. Becky Lasky's costumes communicate character clearly, andshe has dug up some very funny, very over-the-top costume pieces, forthe actors to relish and play with.

-January 20, 2007, Matt Schicker, nytheatre.com review




The actors putting on this “Shrew” are varietyplayers in a USO show who pass the time backstage playing cards andannoying each other with their warm-ups until a drunk (Arthur Aulisi)stumbles in. They throw him in a robe, start calling him“Lord” and plant him in the front row of theaudience for the duration – or at least until he makes hisown stage debut in the final act. Complicit in the duplicity, theaudience is roped along into the show, with six actors tackling 23parts (with the help of identifying props and accents).

It makes sense that for theplay-within-a-play to work, there has to be some doubling. And thedouble casting sets up some interesting juxtapositions: If the sameactor (in this case Alex Smith) plays Bianca’s fatherBaptista and her eventually successful suitor, Lucentio, then hereventual choice of him is both natural – after all,it’s a type she knows and of which he must approve– and slightly alarming, in its confirmation ofBaptista’s power over her. (She couldn’t have madeit work with the suitor Gremio, whose part actress Autumn Dornfeldtakes with a pair of thick glasses and an old man’s affect.)

But the most surprising change aboutthe Roundtable’s adaptation is the male player who takes therole of Katarina – or is forced into it, having assigned allthe other parts. Once we’ve gotten over actor PaulWhitthorne’s mustache and his player’s disdain forthe role, it presents us with a series of questions about theshrew’s own nature. Having seen her state, why does Petruchio(the swaggering Tom Butler) continue to pursue her? Is“shrewish” just a synonym for “too muchlike a man?” (Whitthorne drapes himself with a blue checkedapron but makes no pretense of raising his voice to play her,foregrounding the difference.)

And it changes the titular taming:With a man in Katarina’s shoes, the struggle between her andPetruchio takes on an erotic subtext which was present in the originalplay when all the parts were played by men, but which our moderncastings have allowed us to forget. Instead of being physicallyoverpowered by him, the implication is that she chooses to submit.There is no pretense at unending love here: Katarina’s finalspeech to her fellow wives seems like a performance, rather than alecture, and is thus easier to swallow.

The play ends on an unresolved chord;we’re left pondering Butler’s rendition of“You Belong To Me” and wondering how much truththere is in it for Baptista’s daughters.

-Ellen Wernecke, New Theatre Corps


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Wrong Way Up

December 2004, The BeltTheater, NewYork City

“It's ahigh-spirited, feel-good rock show interspersed with pop, blues,excursions into larynx-wrenching Broadway-type ballads, and miniaturemock production numbers. ... a gritty, freewheeling version of "WonderfulTown.The whole package, smartly wrapped in Andrew Grosso's direction,delivers some 90 minutes of titanic energy whipped into idiosyncratic,highly entertaining theatricality.”
-Ron Cohen,BACKSTAGE

”Thisshow—the most fun I've had at a new musical in months, maybeyears—is all about the jubilation that comes from figuringout and then following your path. The actors, musicians, and audienceshare in the sheer joy of the thing and when it's over, just abouteverybody is in a great mood. What Mamma Mia! And Brooklyn hopeto do, Wrong Way Up actually does, in spades. It's a swell way to spendan evening having a blast with a roomful of strangers. The entire showis staged with zing and simplicity by Andrew Grosso. WrongWay Up! never feels like it's overstaying its welcome. Quitethe contrary: when it reaches its giddy, exalting climax, nobody seemsto want it to end, on or offstage. What a kick. ”
-Martin Denton, NYTHEATRE.COM

The cast of Wrong Way Up! is superb…(and) haveperfected the banter and seamless interaction of a vaudeville duo,breaking into song, dance and comedy whenever the story requires it.Joyful and life-affirming, without being cheesy. Wrong Way Up deliverson all the sweet, strange, hilarious and loving promise - and ups theante. The energy is infectious and intense. And like some mildlypornographic revival, soon enough the audience is clapping and singingin gratitude.
- Jessica Cogan, NEWYORKCOOL.COM

I couldn’t havechosen a better show. WrongWay Up’s high energy cast are accomplished performers who canmake an audience laugh or cry with their inspired commitment to asong’s heart tugging poignancy then quickly turn around anddeliver witty lyrics that make Andrew Grosso’s directionworthy of his reputation”.

- Larry Litt, NEWYORK THEATER WIRE

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As I Lay Dying


May2004, The Ohio Theater, New York City &
December 2002, Chashama Theater, New York City
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”Howdoes one translate a peek into the minds of a poor, southern, gothicfamily into dialogue? How does one create an action-filled plot out ofthe cyclical, repetitive, detached consciousness of these characters?How does one dramatize such a literary text and still retain itsauthor’s signature poetry and subtle irony? These questions,and others, are answered with ingenuity and boldness in thisproduction. Performed by an impressive and intelligent cast, the textcomes to life in a way that is sharp and intense and darkly comic.Grosso directs the play with strength and artfulness ... seamlessly andlovely design... the ensemble work is pitch perfect... Engaging,poetic, and clever, this play is a must see.”
- Julie Sharbutt,OFFOFFONLINE.COM

"DirectorGrosso, helms a starkly beautiful version.... The audience knows thisis the stuff of good theater: Something will be made of almostnothing.... (Adaptations) always call for excellent ensemble work. As ILay Dying is no exception either in its demand or in how the demand ismet. Director Grosso has brought together a handsome cast... "
- David Finkle,THEATERMANIA.COM

"Thegutsiest, craziest adaptation effort I can remember, Andrew Grosso andthe Basement Flat company take on AS I LAY DYING... a noble job!"
- Helen Shaw, NY SUN
“This is anambitious and praiseworthy undertaking.”
- Victor Gluck,BACKSTAGE

“As I Lay Dying marks my introduction to the theatre work ofAndrew Grosso; this talented young man, who adapted this play fromWilliam Faulkner's novel and also directed it, is definitely someone tokeep an eye on. His achievement here is to make a big novel into astageworthy drama; with one eye on storytelling and the other oneconomical presentation he has rather miraculously managed to dojustice to a host of colorful characters and storylines in a tinybasement theatre space (a former meat locker!) with eleven actors, arickety bed, a dozen chairs, and little else. Grosso and his actorsrender the tale with vivid detail; it's an enormously successfuldemonstration. Grosso has earned a fan here; I will eagerly lookforward to what he does next.”
- Martin Denton,NYTheatre.com

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Waiting for Godot

August2001,East River Amphitheater, New York City

“Director Grosso,confronted with a crumbling, badly disintegrating East RiverAmphitheater … proves that “Waiting forGodot” will work anywhere, anytime, and under anycircumstance imaginable… The integration of the East RiverAmphitheater into the very heart of the play itself comes as both asurprise and an indicator of the care with which this production wasput together. Make no mistake: this is a solid, decidedly worthwhileproduction of the play, well cast and universally wellperformed.” - Joseph Hurley, IRISH ECHO

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All’s Well ThatEnd’s Well

February2000, At HERETheatre, New YorkCity

“DirectorGrosso should be commended for his wise and ruthless choices he makeshere. He’s created a brisk, no-frills evening that bringsShakespeare’s central themes into sharp relief.” - Eric Grode, Backstage

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Love Song of the Apocaplypse

October 1998, The Etcetera Theatre, London

“Director Grossosustains a cracking pace and extracts wry humor from thequintessentially American passion play hostage drama that ensues. Three people that youwouldn’t want to get involved with end up making for anenjoyable evening.”
- Charles Godfrey-Faussett, TIME OUT LONDON

“Outstandingperformances and superb direction make this one of the best evenings Ihave ever spent in the theater.”
- Jane Marlow, HAM & HIGH, LONDON

“Atriumph of style … the standard of acting isimpressive”
- Andrew Aldridge, THE STAGE, LONDON

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