By William Wolf

INCOGNITO  Send This Review to a Friend

Make sure your brain is in good working order if you go to see “Incognito,” as it will undergo demanding exercise as you strain to follow the clever, intricate interplay with 2O characters portrayed by four actors in the staging of Nick Payne’s “Incognito,” slickly directed by Doug Hughes.

At the start, Geneva Carr, Heather Lind, Charlie Cox and Morgan Spector, who will deftly handle all the roles, march down the aisle, take to the stage, walk around in circles and then lunge into energetic choreographed motions to demonstrate “Encoding.” You see, at the core the play is all about the human brain, and especially Albert Einstein’s brain.

Although fictional, the play performed so ingeniously by the talented cast is inspired by fact and real people. (The Playbill provides an author’s note with a heavy dose of references.) Getting down to basics, did you know that a pathologist kept a portion of Einstein’s brain for study? It naturally was of special interest when Einstein died, with hope for clues as to his genius. Slivers of it now reside in a museum in Philadelphia.

What playwright Payne does is to dramatize actions involving the great man’s brain, replicated in a jar that we see, and mix all of that with drama that includes murder, mystery and relations between various characters. One question posed, for example, is whether Evelyn Einstein, known as the adopted daughter of the scientist’s son Hans Albert Einstein, might really be the scientist’s daughter from one of his romantic liaisons. Could DNA from Eisntein’s brain establish the truth?

In the larger picture Payne’s brainy play seeks to make us think about how the brain functions. The cast goes through two more labeled sections, illustrated by further choreographed movements, called “Storing” and “Retrieving.”

The acting is consistently admirable, as the cast members slip in and out of a variety of characters at a rather rapid pace. Voices and demeanor become very different, and some situations may surprise, such as a lesbian encounter. By the end of the intermission-less 90 minutes we have a broad picture and are sent home possibly thinking about brain function and trying to sort out what our own brains have just experienced.

Payne, whose play “Constellations” you may remember for its unusual take on a relationship, is especially creative and demanding in this Manhattan Theatre Club presentation. And there is just the right cast to make the most of his head trip. At New York City Center Stage I, 131 West 55th Street. Phone: 212-581-1212. Reviewed May 26, 2016.

PEER GYNT (2016)  Send This Review to a Friend

The long history of productions of Henrik Ibsen’s classic “Peer Gynt, first performed in 1876, includes a five-hour 1957 staging in Sweden by the great director Ingmar Bergman with Max von Sydow in the title role. I sure would have liked to have seen that one and observed how Bergman met the challenge of this complex and difficult work.

Enter the new Classic Stage Company offering, directed and adapted by John Doyle, the master of downsizing. This one runs only 110 minutes without an intermission, but it sometimes seems like five hours. By stripping the play to its bare bones, Doyle captures essentials, but, especially as performed on a rather restrictive platform (scenic design by David L. Arsenault), the setting seems puny for a play with such lofty ambitions. There are familiar Doyle touches, as with cast members doubling as musicians.

How well you take to this version may depend largely on how you relate to Gabriel Ebert in the title role. This is the saga of a man going through life trying to both prove himself and find himself. It is filled with grandiose ambitions, abuse of others, deceptions, events real and imagined—a road strewn with intense experiences until the final reckoning in which Gynt has to face who he was and what he has or has not achieved. Basing the play on a fairy tale, Ibsen provided what might be taken as an allegorical view of of humankind.

Although Ebert handles the extravagant dialogue competently, for this theatergoer at least, it was difficult to care much about the character he embodies. Physically, Ebert looks impressive, but as Gynt experiences the long yet here abbreviated journey, there is a lack of emotional pull, as if Ebert were going through the motions without reaching depth. Referring back to that Bergman production, knowing what a great actor von Sydow proved himself to be, I feel the result would have been much different, especially with the play staged to its fullest.

Admittedly “Peer Gynt” is an exceptionally challenging, almost insurmountable play to conquer, but cutting it down to what Doyle has done doesn’t seem to be the answer. Plaudits to all the cast members working hard to extract the most meaning from their roles, including Ebert as Gynt, but in truth I left more exhausted than enlightened. At the Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th Street. Reviewed May 26, 2016.

BROADWAY BY THE YEAR--THE 1960S  Send This Review to a Friend

You almost can’t go wrong with songs from Broadway musicals of the 1960s, given the caliber of the hits, the numbers yielded and even the better songs surviving from the decade’s lesser entries. For the survey of the 1960s (May 23, 2016), creator/writer/director/host Scott Siegel of the Broadway by the Year series presented by The Town Hall, set the era’s background with its ups and downs, including on the down side the tragic assassinations and the Vietnam War, and on the brighter side, man walking on the moon and, best of all as Siegel quipped, the Mets winning a World Series.

The shows included “Fiddler on the Roof,”“Hello, Dolly!,” “Oliver!,” “Mame,” “Funny Girl,” “Cabaret” and “Hair,” among others of various strengths. And leave it to Siegel to come up with just the right contingent of singers to do justice to the emblematic numbers. A recent trend observed in the series has been concentrating less on quantity of vocalists in favor of starring a smaller group of individuals who can each do more songs.

One could be grateful for that in this instance, as the cast was so terrific one was eager to hear every performer return. One star turn after another dazzled.

For the opener Christina Bianco started things off as herself for a change, leaving her vaunted gift for impressions for later in the program. She gave a rousing interpretation of “Before the Parade Passes By” from “Hello, Dolly!” Bianco returned to perform “As Long as He Needs Me” from “Oliver!” and give an explosive rendition of “I’m the Greatest Star” from “Funny Girl.” True to form, she set the house ablaze when she performed the title song of “Cabaret” in an outpouring of interpretive impressions of how various singers would sound, such as Streisand, Peters, Chenoweth et al.

Another stalwart of the night was lovely-voiced Christiane Noll, who delighted with the tender “One Boy” from “By Bye Birdie,” a passionately reflective “If He Walked Into My Life” from “Mame,” the anguished “Where Am I Going?” from “Sweet Charity” and the well-sung but less interesting “Fireworks” from “Do Re Mi.”

Thrills also came from the impressive Jeannette Bayardelle who sang the title song of “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.” If one is going to do “Aquarius” from “Hair,” the choice had better be right, and Bayardelle came through with the requisite power and excitement, demonstrating what a charismatic performer she is.

One of the best songs from “On a Clear Day…” is the clever “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?” and Kerry O’Malley gave the number entertaining freshness with her interpretation, spiced with bewilderment and the expressions to underscore the character’s romantic plight. O’Malley’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from “Funny Girl” was outstandingly strong, as if the role might have originally belonged to her. She also effectively sang “I Don’t Want to Know” from “Dear World.”

Broadway by the Year regulars are familiar with the exquisite high-register voice of Scott Coulter, who was at it again with a memorable rendition of “I’ve Got to Be Me” from “Golden Rainbow,” a heartfelt, new-sounding “Make Someone Happy” from “Do Re Mi,” and a memorable “Anyone Can Whistle” from that legendary show that had a brief run but is a lingering favorite of many, including me. He also led the company in the closer, “Let the Sun Shine In” from “Hair.”

A revelation for me, and probably for many in the audience, was the performance by Cooper Grodin, who showed a fascinating range. He could impress with a delicate number like “Once Upon a Time” from “All American,” then wow the crowd with a dynamic turn singing the demanding and intense “The Rain Song” from “110 in the Shade.” Then he scored mightily with the best song from “1776,” an impassioned indictment of Northern involvement in the slave trade expressed in the powerful “Molasses to Rum.”

I wish there had been more from “Fiddler on the Roof,” but a lovely group offering of “Sunrise, Sunset” just before intermission effectively hit the mark.

The above success would not have been fully possible without the superb work by musical director Ross Patterson, who has been with the series through the 16 years of Broadway by the Year presentations. It is always a pleasure to enjoy him at the piano, leading his “Little Big Band.” Also credit the accomplished Tom Hubbard on bass and Eric Halvorson on drums. The show’s assistant director was Rick Hinkson. Production assistants were Joe Burke and Holly Cruz. At The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street. Phone: 212-840-2824. Reviewed May 24, 2016.

SKELETON CREW  Send This Review to a Friend

The financial perils and uncertainty for workers at the mercy of industry pressures that lead to closings are movingly depicted in the earthy “Skeleton Crew,” tautly written by Dominique Morisseau and briskly directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson in this Atlantic Theater Company presentation. The setting is hurting Detroit in about 2008 but we know that similar situations can be found elsewhere. The play is thus symptomatic and speaks to the working class population at large.

These employees work in an auto stamping factory. We are given the impression of the repetitive nature of the jobs by the clever device of having a muscular performer, Adesola Osakalumi, going through assorted dance movements at the start and between scenes, accompanied by staccato projections suggesting a repressive factory atmosphere.

The interplay between characters that is dramatized reveals the personalities of the individuals and the problems they encounter individually and collectively.

The set, designed by Michael Carnahan, simulates a room where the workers go to have their break, drink coffee, tend to their lockers and chat. We meet the veteran employee Faye, who is the union representative. As played by Lynda Gravatt, she is sharp-tongued but in a friendly, up-front way, and ultimately we learn what her hard-knock life has been like. The foreman, Reggie, is played by Wendell B. Franklin. He’s in a precarious position. He knows that there will be an imminent loss of jobs, and he is caught between trying to do right by the workers and look out for his own position.

Shanita, a spirited young woman expecting a baby, is portrayed by the excellent Nikiya Mathis. Dez, strongly performed by Jason Dirden, has a rebellious streak and ambitiously hopes to build a life beyond the factory. But he is prone to trouble, and is revealed to have come to work packing a gun.

Little by little we get to know each of the five characters better, thanks to the way in which playwright Morisseau structures the work and provides precision to the dialogue and interaction. Always there is the underlying truth of the economy gone sour, and the workers caught in the cauldron of trying to survive.

By the conclusion, in-depth acquaintance with the characters has been achieved and the playwright, skilled actors and a knowledgeable director have succeeded in shining a spotlight on a vulnerable slice of America. At the Linda Gross Theater, Atlantic Theater Company, 336 West 20th Street, Reviewed May 24, 2016.

DEAR EVAN HANSEN  Send This Review to a Friend

The flashing visual scenic backgrounds of texting, emails, Facebook entries and photos in the musical “Dear Evan Hansen” are an eyeful. They set the tone for the contemporary high school atmosphere in which an appealing story of teenage problems both entertains and provides an emotional charge. The entire show is marked by creativity both in staging and performance, making this one of the best musicals of the 2015-16 season.

Ben Platt is outstanding throughout in the title role of the production, with a clever book by Steven Levenson and involving music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. When we first meet Evan, he is an unhappy, withdrawn, desperate and frenetic young man who has no high school friends and is too meek to try to establish relationships. A therapist has suggested that he write letters to himself.

That sets up the plot. One of these letters is mistakenly taken to be from Connor Murphy (Mike Faist), an off-putting, unfriendly youth with his own problems. Connor has rebelled against his parents, who are annoyed at his getting high and lack of scholastic interest, and when he commits suicide, the grieving parents want to see more of the emails of the purported correspondence. Evan and his mischievous schoolmate Jared (Will Roland) conspire to write emails that fuel the false picture of an adoring friendship between Connor and Evan. There is also a social media frenzy.

Connor’s parents (warmly played by John Dossett and Jennifer Laura Thompson) regard Evan as a replacement for their son and give him a warm relationship that he never felt at home, despite the heroic efforts of his divorced mom Heidi (Rachel Bay Jones). Besides, Evan has a secret crush on Connor’s sister Zoe (Laura Dreyfuss) that now begins to flower.

With Connor dead, students begin raising funds for a memorial orchard to recall the woods where Evan and Connor are supposed to have bonded. We know, of course, that truth must out, but how it all happens, revealed with story and music, is inventively evolved, and by the end of the show, there is an emotional impact, especially for Connor’s parents, Evan’s mother, and Evan and Zoe.

This is a musical to which mere description can’t do justice. You have to be there. On the night I attended the girls in a high school contingent near me were sobbing at the end, and then enthusiastically cheering at the curtain call. “Dear Evan Hansen” is one of those shows that can captivate teenagers, boys and girls alike. The high school connection is captured so that all seems very contemporary and the emotions generated hit home.

The most moving number, “Only Us,” is tenderly and assertively sung by Evan and Zoe, but a host of numbers expertly express various characters and situations. The visual impact cannot be over-stressed, with scenic design by David Korins, lighting design by Japhy Weideman and projection design by Peter Nigrini. The sound design by Nevin Steinberg also has a major impact. Michael Grief has directed with expert meshing of the show’s many ingredients, including the choreography by Danny Mefford.

The staging is especially vivid and the book, although on occasion a bit cumbersome in required plot resolutions in the second act, is enlivened by arresting ideas, such as the entertaining appearances of Connor after his suicide to add amusingly wry perspective. We are ultimately made to feel not only for Evan, but for just about everyone else. “Dear Evan Hansen” is not only an enjoyable show, but an admirable one that bears repeat viewing to absorb all of its energy and imagination. At Second Stage Theatre, 305 West 43rd Street. Phone: 212-246-4422. Reviewed May 21, 2016.

TURN ME LOOSE  Send This Review to a Friend

Joe Morton is a splendid actor, proven once again with his spot-on portrait of the noted comedian and activist Dick Gregory. Morton becomes Gregory before our eyes after a standup opening routine of corny jokes by John Carlin, as might happen in a nightclub. The script by Gretchen Law mixes material from Gregory’s actual performing and biographical information, and, in this show directed by John Gould Rubin, Morton slips back and forth between club work and behind the scenes talk keyed to his life story. It is a smooth-as-silk performance-- moving, hilarious and politically razor-sharp.

Given Gregory’s acute observations about racism, including the restriction of voting rights and disrespectful treatment, the show is acutely topical. Often when he elaborated on a truth about our society at the performance that I attended, I heard murmurs of “that’s right!” “uh-huh!” and “yes!” from engrossed members of the audience.

Like the person he is channeling, Morton has excellent timing and knows how to appeal to his attendees. He is amusing making short work of hecklers (Carlin plays one), and he effectively communicates the Gregory wit. I recalled having once heard Gregory explain that he titled a book of his the N word, because that way every time someone used the epithet, it would be a plug for his book. Morton gets a big laugh repeating that explanation in the show.

He also gets a laugh when he cites Michael Jackson as a reason why America is such a great country. He asks, “Where else could a young black man grow up to be white?”

There is an impressive moment when he wrestles with his handling of an offer from Jack Paar to be on his television show, an invitation he rejects at first and then berates himself for having turned down the career-boosting opportuniy. His gripe: black performers are never invited to sit on the couch and chat with Paar after doing their act. He agrees to on the show only after Paar phones to meet his couch terms.

The evening is both entertaining and meaningful, with laughs galore that reveal so much about our society then and now. Gregory, at 83, is still flashing his wit in interviews. Just go on YouTube. But for live enjoyment and wisdom you’ll do well to meet the star via Joe Morton in “Turn Me Loose.”At The West Side Theatre, 407 West 43rd Street. Phone: 212-239-6200. Reviewed May 20, 2016.

DAPHNE'S DIVE  Send This Review to a Friend

There’s a long tradition of plays set in bars in which we meet an assortment of characters and learn about their life stories and problems. (Think “The Iceman Cometh” on the loftier side). “Daphne’s Dive,” written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, who wrote the book for “In the Heights,” directed by Thomas Kail, who directed “Hamilton” and a Signature Theatre presentation, is an earthy example following the time-worn path and set in a North Philadelphia barroom. It turns out that the lively character assortment is well worth spending time with, and the acting does justice to the author’s take on them and her overall vision. We get to know everyone better as the play moves along.

The opening is briefly dramatic as Samira Wiley as Ruby comes on stage and says, “I am 11 years old,” then departs. It is a device repeated as Ruby intermittently makes a similar announcement as she gets older in an indication of the passage of time over a 17-year period. At the play’s end, we find Ruby back at 11, as we get a further explanation of what happened to reorient the trajectory of her life.

The bar and the apartment above has a Latino owner, Daphne, played with friendly assertiveness by Vanessa Aspillaga. She takes in Ruby to raise as a daughter after her parents are arrested. Daphne has a sister, Inez, portrayed by the attractive Daphne Rubin-Vega, who dresses more flashily, flaunts her figure and often cracks wise. Her husband, Acosta, played with confident bearing by Carlos Gomez, is a wheeler-dealer in pursuit of a political career.

Other characters include Jenn, an Asian-American, acted spiritedly by KK Moogie, a passionate, socially committed activist who wants to fix what’s wrong with the world. There is also Pablo, an aspiring artist played by Matt Saldivar, whose idea of art is to find scraps in the garbage of the bar and mold them into what he envisions as creative works. There is Rey, played by Gordon Joseph Weiss, who enjoys riding about with his motorcycle when he is not pursuing his trade of glass installation. (Weiss looks as if he could play Willie Nelson.)

The dialogue among the characters is often colorful, and as they frequent the bar, things begin to change. There is a lesbian encounter between Daphne and Jenn, and a traumatic event that has a profound effect. An undercurrent of social consciousness provides purpose as we note how characters wrestle with personal needs and demons.

(An idle thought: When people come into the bar they don’t order beer, they ask for a Heineken. Is product placement involved?)

“Daphne’s Dive” is clearly a talented work well worth a visit. At the Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street. Reviewed May 20, 2016.

THE JUDAS KISS  Send This Review to a Friend

Despite all of the advances in civil rights for homosexuals, lesbians and transgender men and women, there remain issues that keep bursting into the spotlight about continued discrimination. Thus, a play such as David Hare’s “The Judas Kiss” remains topical, even though it deals with events at the end of the 19th century. The drama, currently getting a revival at BAM’s Harvey Theater in Brooklyn, has been engrossingly staged by director Neil Armfield with a superb performance as Oscar Wilde by Rupert Everett.

“The Judas Kiss” was performed on Broadway in 1998 With Liam Neeson as Wilde. This production comes by way of the The UK’s Chichester Festival Theatre in association with Robert Fox, Theatre Royal Bath Productions and Hampstead Theatre Productions.

We see Wilde at two stages, at first just before his imprisonment for homosexuality in 1895, and then, following his release from prison, in fading days of his life during a stay in Naples. The portrait Hare presents of the towering literary figure, whose life was wrecked by the anti-homosexual bias in Britain at the time, is basically very sad. (Note: It wasn’t until 1967 that homosexuality no longer was criminal in England.)

A sexual atmosphere is established at the start of “The Judas Kiss.” A male and female servant, both nude, are having sex in a hotel, where Wilde is due to arrive. Later, when Wilde is in Naples, we see his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie), played by Charlie Rowe, having had sex with a well built and hung Italian named Galileo (Tom Colley). Bosie and Galileo are seen casually au natural.

The play is endowed with plentiful discussion, some of it flashing Wilde’s renowned wit, but mainly involving getting to know central characters in Wilde’s life and the facing of decisions under pressure. The smart thing to do for Wilde would have been to leave England to avoid punishment. But Wilde did not want to flee.

We get to know his close friend Robert Ross, forthrightly played by Cal MacAninch, and, of course, Wilde’s famous lover Lord Alfred Douglas, known as Bosie. Rowe portrays Bosie as a self-indulgent, unlikable, arrogant playboy, but intricately and emotionally involved with Wilde and financially important to him as well.

An especially poignant scene is in Naples, when Bosie tells Wilde that he is leaving, and as he departs one senses the void that will be left. The picture of Wilde sitting alone is wrenching, with Everett’s acting providing maximum impact, rendering him a shell of the vigorous character he appeared to be in the first act.

Dale Ferguson’s set design is minimal, allowing us to focus primarily on the intertwined characters and the substance of what Hare is imparting. One comes away with admiration for Everett’s performance and a fresh view of the tragedy of what Wilde had to endure in the face of the vicious prejudice of his time, and the devastating complications it brought to his life and relationships. At BAM’s Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton Street, Brooklyn. Phone: 718-636-4182.

A BETTER PLACE  Send This Review to a Friend

The title of Wendy Beckett’s play “A Better Place” proved prophetic. All through it I was longing to be in a better place than watching the mostly boring, vacuous tale with a cast frequently overacting in an attempt to make something more out of it. There is neither emotional connection to the characters nor sufficient humor in the stabs at comedy. Besides, the plot doesn’t make any sense. The mishap is a presentation by The Directors Company in association with Pascal Productions.

On one side of the stage (scenic design by David L. Arsenault), there is part of an Upper West Side Manhattan apartment in a flashy expensive glass hi-rise. With a gulf in between, on the other side is a shabby walk-up occupied by a quarreling gay couple, Les (Rob Maitner) and Sel (John Fitzgibbon). Les is obsessed with spying on the upscale family across the street and envying their apartment, which apparently never has blinds covering the windows no matter what is going on there.

In the fancier apartment, life isn’t what it seems to Les. John Roberts (Edward James Hyland) has a a gambling problem and pisses away money betting on horses. His wife, Mary (Judith Hawking) longs to sell the apartment and move to Florida, a desire threatened by John’s gambling habit, his secretly taking out mortgages on the apartment, and his loss of a briefcase filled with cash. Mary resents the gambling and also feels her youth fading. For kicks she secretly corresponds with internet men whom she deceives with her chatter.

The Roberts have a daughter, Carol (Jessica Digiovanni) who is not only spoiled rotten, but has no idea of what her father does for a living and has no intention of ever working herself, wanting to marry a guy with enough money to keep her. Her idea of sexual turn-on is talking real estate with a salesman when his sales jargon pitches get hot, whether the hanky-panky is on a table or up against a wall.

The author’s idea of getting a plot going is to have Mary taken to a hospital after falling (with Les seeing the incident from across the street and calling 911), and Les, having found the lost briefcase, toying with keeping the money, but then honestly returning it to Roberts via the doorman after keeping enough to buy a shirt. John and Mary are so happy that they phone Les, invite him for lunch, and they all wave happily to each other from window to window.

I’ve given you spoilers, but not really, for how can you spoil something that is already spoiled?

The idea of haves and have-nots on the Manhattan apartment scene might hold potential, but none of that is credibly realized in this mess. For the record, Michel Satow does quadruple duty as a broker, orderly, waiter and concierge. The direction by Evan Bergman veers between overblown and listless. At the Duke on 42nd Street, 229 West 42nd Street. Phone: 646-223-3010. Reviewed May 18, 2016.

DO I HEAR A WALTZ?  Send This Review to a Friend

I don’t recall being very excited about “Do I Hear a Waltz?” when I saw the original 1965 Broadway show. But this time around, seeing the excellent concert staging by New York City Center Encores! (May 11-15, 2016), I found the music, lyrics and acting delightful. The book by Arthur Laurents, based on his play “The Time of the Cuckoo,” becomes somewhat cumbersome in the second act's need to work out the plot, but the music by Richard Rodgers is melodious and appropriate to the story, and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics shine with wit.

Theater historians point to the hostilities that developed between the show’s creators in the process of bringing it to Broadway, especially between Rodgers and Sondheim. All of that is irrelevant to what is seen in this colorful Encores! version, with choreography by Chase Brock, direction by Evan Cabnet and musical direction by Rob Berman, conducting the ever-excellent Encores! Orchestra.

The main pleasures are the captivating star performances. Melissa Errico provides credible dimension to the role of Leona Samish, an American who arrives in Venice seeking adventure and love that has eluded her at home. On the one hand she is wary, on the other needy. Errico impressively handles the acting with its in-depth demands, and when she sings, she appealingly rises to the occasion with her excellent voice and show business know-how. She brings poignancy to the title number, symbolizing that she’ll hear a waltz in her mind when she meets Mr. Right, and also irony to “Everybody Loves Leona.”

Musically, she has a terrific partner in her leading man, Richard Troxell, who plays Renato, who is married (Leona doesn’t know that at first), and temptingly comes on strong to her. Renato says that he and his wife don’t love each other anymore but can’t get a divorce in Italy. He contrasts the way in which the kind of relationship he proposes to her is worked out in Italy with the same things that happen in the U.S., but hypocritically in secret.

How lyric opera tenor Troxell can sing! When he performs "Someone Like You” and “Take the Moment ” it is romantically thrilling. He also is deft with comedy, as when he sings the hilarious “Bargaining,” with Sondheim’s amusing lyrics about the art of buying something from a Venetian vendor.

Karen Ziemba is also a great plus as Signora Fioria, the widowed owner of the pension in which Leona stays, an outspoken woman who enjoys her freewheeling relations with men. As well as providing a philosophical anchor and a welcome character, Ziemba as Fioria is entertaining when singing “This Week Americans,” and later “Last Week Americans,” and also when joining the others in the rendition of one of the show’s lovelier songs, “Moon in My Window.” She also has the musical’s funniest line when she counters Leona’s fantasy about hearing a waltz with “You should have gone to Vienna.”

Sarah Stiles is a hilarious show-stealer as the sullen, not very communicative maid Giovanna.` Also staying at the pension, an American husband and wife, Eddie Yeager (Claybourne Elder) and Jennifer (Sarah Hunt), are having marital problems, especially after Eddie has a fling with Signora Fioria. Bringing in their difficulties adds a burden to the plot, but if those characters were eliminated it would deprive us of their affable performances, and in particular their very effective rendition of the sardonic number “We’re Gonna Be All Right.”

Members of the company provide pleasant dance interludes that create wistful moods. When all is said and done, the cumbersome working out the ending notwithstanding, thanks to Errico’s performance, one is left with warm feelings toward Leona as a woman who doesn’t find what she is looking for in Venice, but has a learning experience that has loosened her up and provided fresh hope for her life. At New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street. Phone: 212-247-0430. Reviewed May 15, 2016.

  

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