By William Wolf

THE INHERITANCE  Send This Review to a Friend

There is a double meaning to the title of Matthew Lopez’s ambitious two-part play “The Inheritance,” with a total running time of some six and one-half hours. On the one hand the title refers to a question of inheriting a historically important mansion, depicted in miniature, where gays plagued with AIDS were given refuge. The title also refers to the heritage of gay struggle and history handed down to contemporary homosexuals who have new problems of their own.

The cumulative effect of the play, incisively directed by Stephen Daldry on a set that consists mainly one wide low platform, is powerful, although it could very well be shortened. Yet, with a superb cast and riveting emotional highlights, seeing “The Inheritance” is an overwhelming experience, especially if you attend the two parts on the same day with a dinner break between, as I did.

E.M Forster’s 1910 novel “Howard’s End” inspired Lopez, and indeed one can find connections. When he wrote “Howard’s End,” it did not involve homosexuality--it was only later that Forster would admit to being gay. One of the things that Lopez has done is to create the character Morgan as a stand-in for Forster. Morgan, memorably played by Paul Hilton, becomes the guide to telling the story, steering Toby Darling (Andrew Burnap), who is an author, and others into how the drama is meant to unfold. He thus becomes a unique kind of narrator while also emerging as a tribute to Forster. (Morgan was Forster’s middle name.)

The play takes place in New York ity and its environs.What we witness is the relationships between various gay men in a mix of assorted difficulties in finding the right mate, happiness and success in life. Toby is especially troubled, and in Part 2 he has a big moment in which he pours out an agonizing description of the anxieties stemming from his childhood.

There is Eric (Kyle Soller), who is in love with Toby. Samuel H. Levine, plays Adam, with whom Toby is intrigued, and also has a juicy role as Leo, a male prostitute, John Benjamin Hickey delivers an astute characterization as conservative Henry Wiilcox, a successful businessman who wants to have a homosexual relationship without the sex as a result of his still mourning for his dead previous partner.

Hovering over everything is the past AIDs epidemic. There is a particularly powerful moment when ghostly representations of a generation of men of many talents who, one can presume, were AIDS victims, turn up to gather on stage, in effect making a statement that they are not to be forgotten,

Some of the emotional conflicts between the key men are basically of the sort that might also plague heterosexual couples, although under difference circumstances. Parts of what goes on could be cut. There is no need for the play to be as long as it is, although length is a statement in itself that calls for extra attention to the aspirations of the work.

There is a good deal of humor, as when Toby early on confesses to having thrown up on Meryl Streep at a wild party. Lopez has the ability to get laughs without undercutting the seriousness of what he is attempting.

There is only one woman in the cast, the phenomenal Lois Smith as Margaret, the caretaker of the all-important mansion. In Part 2 she has a long soliloquy in which she reveals much about her life and taking care of her dying son and oothers, and one gains renewed respect for her acting strength.

There is so much to experience in this unusual and important work, and it is highly recommended as one of the major plays of this theater season. It also deserves to take its place as one of the key works devoted to illuminating various aspects of gay lives. At the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 248 West 47th Street. Phone: 212-239-6200. Reviewed November 29, 2019.

A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY  Send This Review to a Friend

Tony Kushner’s vintage play, “A Bright Room Called Day,” which the Public Theater staged in 1991, is now being revived by the Public and impressively mounted by director Oskar Eustis. It is full of political ideas, but the trouble is that the play is quite a muddle, and only on occasion do the ideas break through effectively. Kushner, whose later “Angels in America” is a classic, has done some tinkering, and as a result there is added humor, so at least we also get some laughs along with the deciphering.

“A Bright Room Called Day” is on two levels, one a play within a play depicting left-wing scrambling in Berlin in the early 1930s in the face of the rise of Hitler. The other is the 1980s take on the creation of the play, and although this was the Ronald Reagan era, Kushner has now managed to inject some information projecting into the current Trump era. The authoritarian menace in Germany, hardly comparable as a warning to America under Reagan in the first place, is a bit more relevant to the authoritarianism of Trump, but still nowhere near any accuracy measured against the Nazi terror.

What Kushner has now mainly done is create a stand-in for himself as playwright Xillah, amusingly portrayed by Jonathan Hadary, who intervenes at various points to comment, sometimes amusingly, about what’s happening in his play and what the characters should be doing. The discourse is on occasion directed to the audience, but also with the outspoken Zillah (a name not to be confused with Xillah), who has her own loudly voiced ideas on how the play within the play should evolve.

During the 1930s portion there are a series of headlines flashed on a screen to indicate Hitler’s rise, including the infamous Reichstag fire blamed on the communists. We meet those who are endangered by their actions or associations. Linda Emond plays Annabella, a militant painter. Michael Esper is Vealtninc, a Trotskyist. Michael Urie is Gregor, who is gay, and although he has the unlikely opportunity to shoot Hitler in a cinema, he is afraid to pull the trigger because he knows he will be killed. Grace Gummer plays Paulinka, a self-centered actress hooked on psychoanalysis and mainly worrying about herself.

The most interesting of those in Xillah’s play is Agnes, vigorously enacted by Nikki M. James, but she is hesitant when it comes to action. Her sympathies are with the comrades, but she is greatly conflicted and too afraid to become an activist, which makes her reluctant to allow her apartment to be used as a safe house for those forced to go underground.

Estelle Parsons shows that at 92 she can still command a stage in paying Die Alte, an old woman squatter who is desperately trying to survive as best she can. Parsons makes the most of her plight and of mysterious comments of foreboding that she forcefully delivers.

The effort to interweave the time periods results in awkwardness, and also lengthens the drama to its two hours and 45 minutes. The attempt to force relevance to our Trump era also seems mechanical, although Kushner gets a laugh out of the horror voiced by Zillah when she learns what will happen. At the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street. Phone: 212-967-7555. Reviewed November 30, 2019.

EINSTEIN'S DREAMS  Send This Review to a Friend

I left the musical “Einstein’s Dreams” feeling that the score, lyrics, singing and overall production were so rich that I would enjoy seeing the show again to fully digest the creativity. The music certainly bears repeated listening.

The musical, presented by Prospect Theater Company and adapted from Alan Lightman’s “Einstein’s Dreams,” has book and lyrics by Joanne Sydney Lessner and music and lyrics by Joshua Rosenblum, with Cara Reichel directing and Milton Granger as music director. The staging runs 100 minutes without an intermission.

The plot is built around the great scientist Albert Einstein, who in 1905 is dreaming about the theories he is exploring. Einstein, portrayed by Zal Owen, has a habit of falling asleep at his desk, and from that people and events taking place in his mind burst into visibility and song that capture the progression of what turns out to be one of the great discoveries of all time--his theory of relativity, re-confirmed repeatedly through the years by scientists testing it. One amusing song in the show is “The Relativity Rag,” sung by Eisntein and the ensemble.

Throughout there is the periodic appearance of Josette, an imaginary woman who becomes Einstein’s muse. She is played by the delightfully seductive Alexandra Silber, who sings thrillingly, as in her early duet with Einstein in “I Will Never Let You Go,” repeated toward the end after Josette and Einstein sing the title number

In bringing Einstein to life on stage the musical encompasses one of his important actions, writing a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt, urging development of nuclear bombs because the Nazis were working to acquire them. That act is covered in a number called “Letter to Roosevelt,” by Einstein and the ensemble.

Others in the cast in include Talia Cosentino, Stacia Fernandez, Lisa Helmi Johanson, Michael McCoy, Tess Primack, Vishal Vaidya and Brennen Caldwell.

The scenic design by Isable Mengyuan Le features a huge circle against the back wall, with it alternating between a scientific motif to a clock, and Herrick Goldman’s lighting design figures prominently in giving an array of different impressions. Important projection design is by David Bengali. A platform overhead enables movement by cast members, with illumination at times highlighting them. At the left (from the audience viewpoint) is a staircase, from which Josette impressively descends. Period costumes are designed by Sidney Shannon.

A six-piece orchestra at the rear of the stage does a superb job with the score. It consists of music director Milton Granger at the piano and conducting, Bruce Doctor, percussion; Kiku Enomoto, violin; Jonathan Levine, woodwinds; Eleanor Norton, cello (Jessica Wang Dec. 10-14) and Saadi Zain, bass. At 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street. Reviewed November 21, 2019.

TINA--THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL  Send This Review to a Friend

The greatest pleasure offered in “Tina--The Tina Turner Musical” is the opportunity to enjoy the fabulous performance of Adrienne Warren as Tina. Wow, can she sing! She also does a terrific acting job in the role, and that combination enables her to dominate the musical in a manner that honors the real Tina Turner.

After earning ovation after ovation with her numbers in the show, Warren breaks the fourth wall completely for the curtain call. She connects directly with the audience and rouses the crowd with numbers in which the cast and ensemble participate. It’s a blow-the-roof-off finale that leaves one even more impressed with Warren’s talent, charisma and magnetism.

The term juke box musical has become something of a pejorative. But although Turner’s songs are sandwiched into the show, they at least mostly are made to fit the narrative, and the musical becomes more than just a song collection. There is enough of a bio in the book by Katori Hall, with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins, to touch essential bases.

We get Tina’s tough childhood, including an abusive father (David Jennings) and a mother (Dawnn Lewis) who doesn’t really want her. There is of course the ugly, violent abuse by Ike, played convincingly by Daniel J. Watts. The show encompasses Tina’s rise to fame, the problem adult years and a comeback, and it also delves into various personal and professional relationships. There’s only so much depth a musical like this can reach, but there is certainly enough to give one a sense of Tina’s life.

The production itself has razzle-dazzle, including energetic, body-shaking dancing (choreography by Anthony Van Laast), effective projection (design by Jeff Sugg), flashy lighting (design by Bruno Poet), powerful sound (design (by Nevin Steinberg), glittering costumes (set and costume design by Mark Thompson), and all-important wig, hair and makeup (design by Campbell Young Associates). The contingent of musicians are woven into action (music supervision, arrangements and additional music and conducting by Nicholas Skilbeck), and then positioned on stage as a unit in the encore blast. Phyllida Lloyd’s direction smoothly entwines the drama in Tina’s life with Warren’s singing.

There’s a special treat—the performance by Skye Dakota Turner (no relation) as young Anna-Mae (later named Tina Turner by Ike), who can also sing powerfully, which she further proves in her lively audience-pleasing duet with Warren in the curtain call finale.

The large cast also includes Tina’s grandmother (Myra Lucretia Taylor), record honcho Phil Spector (Steven Booth), and of course, the thrilling Ikettes (Holl’ Conway, Kayla Davion, Destinee Rea and Mars Rucker). Among the songs that Warren sings are “Better Be Good to Me,” “River Deep—Mountain High,” “I Don’t Wanna Fight No More,” “Private Dancer” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”

The show’s many attributes are packed tightly into this spectacle geared for those primarily seeking an entertaining Broadway production. And Warren is giving what surely deserves to be an award-contending performance. At the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th Street. Phone: 877-250-2929. Reviewed November 15, 2019.

CONFIDENCE (AND THE SPEECH)  Send This Review to a Friend

Susan Lambert Hatem dips into history with her play “Confidence (and the Speech”), which carries a message that an American president should have forward looking, beneficial policies and be a decent leader. At the core is President Jimmy Carter in the year 1979.

The play, which starts in the present, has a very clumsy structure. April Armstrong is Professor Cynthia Cooper, and a young man named Jonathan (Zach Fifer) sits in on her class and afterward wants to interview her about the time she was a working as an assistant when Carter, scheduled to give a speech, delayed it and retreated to Camp David to further think about what to say. What could professor Cooper reveal about what happened then and her role as a woman in the male crowd?

At first reluctant, she agrees to the interview only if she can play Carter and Jonathan can play her. He agrees, and accordingly dresses in women’s clothes. The gimmick is an absurd detour, although it fits with the playwright’s apparent desire to focus on gender differences in politics. Besides, the last thing Armstrong looks like and speaks like is Jimmy Carter, emphasized at the end when the real Carter appears delivering his speech on screen, and that only stresses the silliness of the original structure.

The most interesting aspects occur during the manipulations that go on behind the scenes. Cynthia has her own ideas of what Carter should say and prepares talking points—the sort of speech she believes he should make--which gets her into a hassle. We meet noted characters out of history—for example, Ross Alden as Hamilton Jordan, Sarah Dacey Charles as Rosalynn Carter, Mark Coffin as Walter ‘Fritz’ Mondale and James Penca as Jody Powell.

There is lots of talk throughout as we try to get a handle at exactly what the author wants us to come away with. Primarily, what finally stands out, in addition to the need to solve energy and other problems, is the contrast with today’s crass White House and its occupant and the need for people to pull together for the good of the world and its future.

Not a bad message, and the cast is mostly solid. But there is an awful lot of jabbering and haziness getting there as director Hannah Ryan struggles to make all of the threads work together. At Theatre One, Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street. Reviewed November 21, 2019.

BROADWAY UNPLUGGED 2019  Send This Review to a Friend

Young folks these days have little idea of what Broadway musicals sounded like in the years before mikes began to be routine during the 1960s. Singers actually used their voices unamplified. Scott Siegel has made an important contribution with his “Broadway Unplugged” shows (“sound design by God”) and the latest example was last night (November 18) with the 18th annual edition staged at Merkin Concert Hall. Creator, writer, director and host Siegel did the introductory honors with his splendid cast of singers blessed with voices that need no amplification.

The accompaniment was provided by the superb musical director and pianist Ross Patterson, talented Don Falzone on bass and expert cellist Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf, with a wide variety of styles required for the extensive song list, mainly from Broadway shows in different time periods.

Male singers mostly dominated the roster. Opera star John Easterlin, who has a magnificent voice, sang “One Alone” from “The Desert Song,” and also “She Wasn’t You” from “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.” The voice of William Michals always thrills, as happened again when he sang “If I Can’t Love Her” from “Beauty and the Beast.” Siegel pointed out that Michals actually made his Broadway debut in that show. Michals also gave a stunning rendition of “If We Only Have Love” from “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.”

Douglas Ladnier also showed his vocal prowess with “They Call the Wind Maria” from “Paint Your Wagon” and entertainingly teamed with Brian Charles Rooney singing the Righteous Brothers song “Soul and Inspiration,” not from Broadway, but chosen by Siegel just because he likes that number and wanted to get it in.

Bill Daugherty is another major talent, as evidenced by his singing “I Don’t Want to Know” from “Dear World” and teaming amusingly with Klea Blackhurst (we’ll get to her in a moment) in “You’re Just in Love” from “Call Me Madam.” Michael Winther was another standout singing “Lonely House” from “Street Scene,” and “Love Can’t Happen” from “Grand Hotel.” The show “Evita” was recalled by Cooper Grodin impressively singing “On This Night of a Thousand Stars” and “Fathers and Sons” from “Working.” Ben Jones amusingly contributed “Guido’s Song” from “Nine.”

When it comes to women who can sing without a mike, Klea Blackhurst is a cinch with her Ethel Merman-like voice. (I recently enjoyed her in the New York City Center Encores! presentation of “Call Me Madam.”) Early in the “Broadway Unplugged” concert she wowed the audience with “I Got the Sun in the Mornin’” from “Annie Get Your Gun.”

Maxine Linehan, with a wealth of international experience, took on the task of singing “Memory” from “Cats” without a mike and she did justice to that iconic number. She was also striking teaming with Ben Jones to sing “Move On” from “Sunday in the Park With George.”

For the final number talented Farah Alvin strongly launched into “The Music That Makes Me Dance” from “Funny Girl.”

There was a pleasing youthful touch added during the program. A group of singers from various universities who took part in Siegel’s “Broadway Rising Stars” series took the stage to prove they too could sing without amplification. Christopher Brian, Mara Friedman, Brian Gabriel and Adan Gallegos harmonized with “What I Did for Love” from “A Chorus Line.”

The entire company gathered for a finale that summarized the concept that contemporary performers if given the opportunity could demonstrate what it was like to rely on natural voices as in bygone days without their being pumped up with mikes. At the Merkin Concert Hall, 129 West 67th Street. Reviewed November 19, 2019.

FORBIDDEN BROADWAY--THE NEXT GENERATION  Send This Review to a Friend

Buffalo may be where “ lost shows” go to die, but the place to go for a new show guaranteeing hearty laughter is the Triad, where creator-writer-director Gerard Alessandrini’s latest version of “Forbidden Broadway—The Next Generation” is installed. The number about the lost shows graveyard is but one of the satirical thrusts that keep the laughs coming.

As has always been the case with the ultra-clever Alessandrini, in targeting Broadway productions he manages to find great versatile performers who can slip into a assortment of characters convincingly as they dispense musical mayhem. The aggregation at the performance I saw consisted of Chris Collins-Pisano, Immanuel Houston, Aline Mayagoitia, Jenny Lee Stern and 12-year-old wunderkind Joshua Turchin.

All get chances to stand out, and I found an array of favorite numbers. One is the spoof of finding a new way to do “Fiddler on the Roof”—in Yiddish. Substituting for the famous song “Tradition” is “Translation,” hilariously performed by Collins-Pisano, Houston and Stern, in addition to an especially hilarious “Brush Up Your Yiddish,” performed by duo Collins-Pisano and Houston. Tossed in are some especially funny Yiddish expressions.

There is a lavish spoof of the garish musical “Moulin Rouge,” with tall, visiaully impressive and elegantly-dressed Mayagoitia singing about having diamonds “up the wazoo” in a production number tagged “Moulin Rude.”

The play “The Ferryman” comes in for intense ribbing, as does the musical “Hadestown.” Turchin, who at his tender age has amassed a huge load of all sorts of acting and musical credits shines in the number “Evan Has-Been,” as well as amusingly taking part in other selections.

Not everything rises to the same quality. The riff on “Harry Potter” could use an infusion of some magic. But then Houston and Collins-Pisano are very funny cavorting as Billy Porter and Lin-Manuel, and Stern and Collins-Pisano broadly spoof Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse.

Stern gets her big moment when the show reaches into the world of film and, playing Judy Garland, she lacerates Renee Zellweger’s portrayal, proclaiming repeatedly that Zellweger “smells in my part.” Stern gives a rousing imitation of Garland’s mighty voice.

Alessandrini was always clever at mixing Broadway shows and characters with one style blended with another, on evidence again with “It’s Got To Be A Musical,” combining “Beetlejuice," “Tootsie” and “Frozen.”

I can’t stress enough what a hilarious performer Immanuel Houston is. His “Jeremy Pope in “Ain’t Too Proud” is a gem, and he stands out in so many of the group numbers as well.

One of the shows I thoroughly disliked last season was the revisionist “Oklahoma!,” which makes me particularly enjoy Alessandrini’s take, “Woke-lahoma!,” with its “Oh What a Miserable Mornin” and also lyrics like “gives you a chill as we crucify Agnes de Mille.” There is a drenched-in-blood finale that comments comically on the terrible revised ending to the revival.

No review of “Forbidden Broadway” would be complete without giving credit to costume designer Dustin Cross and wig designer Conor Donnelly. The amazing costumes and wigs that the cast members rapidly change play a major role in creating convincing character delineation. I still have a vision, for example, of Mayagoitia looking a dead-ringer for Bernadette Peters. Plaudits too for choreographer Gerry McIntyre—the show itself was produced in association with McIntyre-- and for musical director Fred Barton, who at the piano deftly handles the vast selection of musical styles. At the Triad, 158 West 72nd Street. Phone: 212-279-4200. Reviewed November 7, 2019.

THE GREAT SOCIETY (2019)  Send This Review to a Friend

Robert Schenkkan’s “The Great Society” is a sprawling historical play with President Lyndon Baines Johnson at the center while events surrounding him are vigorously enacted. A lot of territory is crowded into the drama, and while other characters of the period (1965-1968) are colorfully portrayed, the intense acting of Johnson by Brian Cox is what energizes and defines the play.

Director Bill Rauch interweaves scenes in the U.S with action in the Oval Office as Johnson meets with a retinue of notables, and the transitions are smoothly executed. Cox imbues Johnson with his reputed temper and ability to manipulate people in his quest for pushing through Great Society programs, and his fury at obstacles that arise. For much of the play that is the side of him we see, but finally, in a private scene with his wife Lady Bird (Barbara Garrick), we see him in more intimate human terms leading to his decision not to seek the presidency again in 1968.

One of the main conflicts portrayed is his trying to calm and slow down the demands by African-Americans for total rights, although he favors that in principle. We see his clashes with Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. (Granthan Coleman), the black power movement promoted by Stokely Carmichael (Marchánt Davis), the Watts riots in Los Angeles and African-American protests in Selma, and also in Chicago, with Johnson demanding action from resistant Mayor Daley (Marc Kudisch).

Johnson finds Robert Kennedy (Bryce Pinkham) a pain in the butt. A host of other key people of the era are smoothly woven into the play with many cast members in multiple roles. Among those depicted are J. Edgar Hoover (Gordon Clapp), Governor George S. Wallace and Richard Nixon (both played by David Garrison), Reverend Ralph Abernathy and Representative Adam Clayton Powell (both played by Ty Jones), Pat Nixon (Angela Pierce), Robert McNamara (Matthew Rauch), Hubert Humphrey (Richard Thomas), Coretta Scott King (Nikkole Salter) and Senator Everett Dirksen (Frank Wood).

Of course, the play also concentrates on the issue that eventually brought Johnson to call it quits and not run again—the mounting casualties in the Vietnam War and the expanding opposition to its continuance. At various moments the numbers of killed and wounded are projected in the bakground. Johnson sinks deeper into the morass that he doesn’t really want. We hear the protest chants of “LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

This is a vast and useful history lesson, and it frequently made me compare the intelligence, skills and wit of Johnson with what sits in the Oval Office today. Enough said. At the Vivian Beaumont Theater, Lincoln Center. Phone: 212-239-6200. Reviewed November 1, 2019.

A WOMAN OF THE WORLD  Send This Review to a Friend

From the minute Kathleen Chalfant appears on stage in intimate Theater C in the 59E59 Theaters complex she makes you believe that she is really Mabel Loomis Todd (1856-1932) in the one-person play “A Woman of the World” by Rebecca Gilman. In case you don’t know who Todd was, she has earned a reputation as the woman who edited and published the poems of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) after the poet’s death.

The tone of Chalfant’s performance is very informal, as directed by Valentina Fratti in this presentation by the Acting Company in association with Miranda Theatre Company. It is as if we are in Todd’s home and listening to her talk to us personally.

As Todd, Chalfant informs us early on that she is going to tell us about Dickinson as if she knew her very closely. But Todd talks more about her own life, including her relationship with Dickinson’s older brother William Austin Dickinson, as well as with Mabel’s husband, David Peck Todd, and the play gets somewhat juicy at one point with the implication that there were threesomes going on.

Mabel Todd had moved to Amherst, when her husband was offered an appointment as an astronomy professor at Amherst College. She talks a lot about the dramatic course of her life and relationships, and one waits eagerly to hear intimate details about Emily Dickinson’s life and character. It turns out that there is a kicker to Todd’s discourse that comes at us rather dramatically.

It is sheer pleasure to listen to Chalfant in her role as Todd, and in addition to knowing more about the play’s subject, we leave with even more admiration for Chalfant’s superb acting ability that has been evident in such previous plays as “Angels in America,” “A Walk in the Woods” and “Talking Heads.” At 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street. Reviewed November 1, 2019.

BELLA BELLA  Send This Review to a Friend

Applause is guaranteed when Harvey Fierstein makes his appearance as the late Bella Abzug wearing a signature red floppy hat. That’s the only costume suggestion of his being a woman. No dress--just regular male clothing. But when Fierstein begins to speak, there is a tone that reminds one of Abzug’s strong voice that added conviction to whatever political point she was making, especially her advocacy as an ardent feminist.

The time is September of 1976, when Bella was holed up in the bathroom of a room in the Summit Hotel in New York waiting for election results in her losing primary battle to become a U. S. senator from New York. Abzug, who died in 1988 at the age of 77, served as a Congresswoman from New York from 1971 to 1977 and in her lifetime earned and fulfilled her reputation as a political firebrand.

“Bella Bella,” presented by the Manhattan Theatre Club and directed by Kimberly Senior, has been written by Fierstein from Abzug’s words and works. The format during 90 minutes without an intermission is a confessional recounting of her life, causes and battles coming from the lady herself channeled by Fierstein.

This being New York, statements reflecting her liberal commitment draw special applause from the crowd, such as her statement that “a woman’s place is in the house—the House of Representatives.” Many in an audience will be old enough to remember Abzug.

I was once in a small meeting with Bella and a few others in an apartment where strategy was planned for a cause that she and I supported. She dominated the room, adamant about what she firmly suggested doing, overriding what anyone else said. It might just as well have been a one-woman meeting. But she could be absolutely counted on for her vital help.

Fierstein is remarkable as this liberal icon. He holds our attention, makes the most of injected humor and creates an intimacy that can make one who never met Abzug get a sense of what she was like.

The performance is another plus in Fierstein’s career, and it is especially welcome at this time of need to celebrate women who have made a difference and to inspire others, women and men, to follow the Abzug tradition by fighting today’s political battles in this age of Trump. At New York City Center Stage I, 131 West 55th Street. Reviewed October 30, 2019.

  

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