Editor/Publisher, Bina Sharif

Saturday, June 30, 2018



Reviewed by Eva Heinemann

By David Byrne
Directed by David Byrne and Kate Stanley

Ava....Stella Tylor
Jamie...Andrew Strafford-Baker
Jacob Bronowski...Richard Delaney
Rita Bronowski...Olivia Hirst
George...Andy Mcleod

David Byrne's SECRET LIFE OF HUMANS Is more of a lecture than a play about
what it is to be human.  Ava is lecturing us about where human beings are headed.
She referes to Jacob Bronowski who was responsible for the TV series, ASCENT OF MAN.
By happenstance she meets Jamie on a blind date and discover Dr Bronowski's secret
In the course of the play we get flashbacks of Bronowski's wife  and co-worker George.
This play explores many profound ideas that my theatrical mind could not grasp.
The characters are only appealing when they stop talking and acted human.

By trying to humanize Yuval Harari's Sapiens brief history of man, which sounds like a
text book to me with stories of world war 11 and some confusing mathematical project
doesn't make compelling theater  The only interesting character was Jamie, (Andrew Strafford-Baker)
who had just lost his mother, was proud of his famous grandfather and was just looking for love and
not to be alone in the world is more the definition of being human than all the theories and ideas
bandied about by Ava.

The acting was very good and there was one very exciting visual element.  This was not the play
for my summer fried brain to see.



This play was extremely cerebral, at times thought provoking and at the same time quite confusing.
The poblem for me about the play is that it doesn't clarify much thus making it not so absorbing a drama.  The journey of human beings which is very complex stayed complex but perhaps thats the
point of the play.

I didn't like Ava's, (Stella Taylor) character at all. She was manipulative and selfish and ended by taking advantage of Jamie.


Friday, May 11, 2018

The Shakespeare Conspiracy

The Shakespeare
Ted Bacino and Rufus Cadigan
Part of the Christopher Marlowe Festival
Produced by Fledgling Theatre
Directed by Jeremy Karafin

"Who wrote all those marvelous plays with Shakespeare's name on it?"
This rumor or conspiracy has been around for many decades.
Some scholars question the authenticity of some plays with incredible knowledge and awareness of all things Shakespearean without him ever leaving England or even attending any college or university.  There is nothing on this planet which has escaped Shakespeare's eye or his Imagination.  His plays encompass the whole world and whatever is in it.  Love, hate, murder, jealousy, power, travel, you name it and he has written about it thus creating suspicion in many people's mind that perhaps someone else is behind those ays.

And thus the conspiracy is born. Marlowe, who was England's foremost playwright before Shakespeare and who was rumored to be a spy as well was supposedly murdered in 1953
after he was charged of Treason and then buried in an unmarked grave solidifying the
rumor for some that he actually escaped and remined in hiding in Italy as well as in England and was the actual author of at least some of the plays which came about after Shakespeare's death in1616.

The  play, Shakespeare Conspiracy tells us the story of what many believe actually happened.

The play takes place in 1593-1632
We enter into a dark and haunting space where the dead bodies are being carried out because of the awful plague.  Darkness of the night and of death set the stage for what is going to come.
The lighting and scenic design (Minimalist) by Brian Pacelli is stunning.

Sir Thomas Walsingham (Mathew Dalton Lynch)  and Christopher (Kit) Marlowe (Mateo D'Amato)
are lovers and are having a blissful life,  Marlowe,  a very youthful and passionate fellow is consumed with writing till he is charged with treason A plot is designed by Sir Thomas Walsingham to bribe the assasin and make Marlow disappear eventually to Italy.  He send his scripts from whereever he is and another ordinay actor (Temesgen Tocruray) Wiliam Shakespeare is hired
to put his name on the scripts.
What makes Sir Frances Walsingham (brilliant Jevon Nicholson) suspicious is the locals of the plays, Now they are being set in Italy and not in England. He tends to believe that Marlowe is alive somewhere and his murder was a hoax and he assigns Constable Henry Maundee (James Arthur M. great performance) to investigate and investigate he does.  He never leaves Sir Thomas alone and is watching every move being made and he recites many Sonnets and pharases admiringly, perhaps he is falling in love with Marlowe himself.

With quite a few twists and turns and eventual murder/suicide the Conspiracy unfolds.
Its very much of a thriller and much better than Agatha Christie's murder mysteries.  After all it involves Shakespeare and Marlowe, two greatest dramatists ever born.

The play is throughly engrossing.  The whole ensemble is wonderful even actors in small roles, especialky the young man in Sicily (Joshua Jacobson TA) who appears towards the very end of the play is handsome and extremely memorable.  Actors who play small roles and complain take note.

Directr Jeremy Karafin whhose work I have always admired has done an enormously brilliant and superb job directing this very complicated and difficult play.  He has created an atmosphere of darkness and shadows which are perfect for the mood of this play. The set is minimal, space is small but used effectively without clutter.  But its also the fantastic lighting design which makes the atmosphere so engrossing.  At some moments we can't see the faces of some actors such as Marlowe when he is in Sicily, maybe some candles could have helped but neverthheless the play works very well.  I just happen to love candles.  Bravo Jeremy.  A beutiful, sensitive and delicious accomplishment even when it involves poison.

Cell: 212-260-6207

Friday, October 27, 2017


Presented by ICS THEATRE
Directed by Mahesh Dattani
Assistant director: Barkha Kishnani
Adapted by Ics Theatre

Ckak De Chekhov, is a HINDI ADAPTATION of eight of Anton Chkhov's short stories.
Chekhov is one of the greates Russin playwright/short story writer and a doctor.
His brilliant plays such as, Three Sisters, Seagul, Cherry Orchard, Wild Honey are produced all over
the world. His writing is about the human spirit.  His every day observations about life are amazing and the little details about human character and its flaws and strong points illuminate life's incredible energy, pathos, irony, farce and tragedy.  There is tremendous humor in his tales.
It also contains lots of sadness about the lives of people who belongs to the working classes and are in awe of authority thus having a great need to please , apologise and seek their approval which is very apparent in one of the short story in this production, "Ha chhoo," (Death of a government clerk) very nicely directed by Mahesh Dattani, India's most prolific Playwright/Director.


Mazaak hi to tha: (Joke) Script: Aditya Datey
Ji Motaben: (Ninny) Gayatri Desai
Chhee: Work of art; Mazhar Sadikot
Mehengai Maar Gay: ( carelessness)   Aditye Datey
Daayan Kahin Ki:  (The witch ) Shailendra Khurana
Ha Chhoo: Aditya Datey: (Death of a govenment Clerk)
Hai hai yeh majboori: Aditya Datey : (The surgery)
Dekho dekho film star: Mazhar Sadikot: (Such is fame)

With the depiction of Russian every day life of peasants, poor people, lowly clerks and high gentry
with passion, pathos, pessimism by Chekhov and then the humor of Hindi language, the result is totally funny and fascinating. In the story Such Is Fame, The effect gathers a universal desire to be famous no matter what and how! and what is revealed here is that talent, genius and hard work most of the time is not required to be famous.  No matter how hard an engineer or a university professor or a scientist works people will rave about a mindless actress or a singer with very little talent and talk about her figure, her clothes, her fame at the expense of real talent and enormous work. At the end of this story one man who had been complaing a lot about lack of fame is asked a question by the other man about his identity, (A talented man by the way) and the complainer is totally ignorant of his existence.

In Ji Motaben, (Ninny)  The servant works so hard all day and the employer keeps subtracting her income by this or that complaint to test if the servant protests against the injustice.  Chekhov is brilliant about the servitude of the lower class.

Hachhoo, (Death of a Government clerk) One of Chekov's earlier published stories is such an observation of the submissness and inferiority complex of the people in lower ranks.
A clerk happens to go see an Opera and can't help his huge sneeze.  He notices a gentleman of higher ranks, actually his boss wiping his forhead.  The clerk is terror stricken and apologises profusely and apologise the next day and the next day and then dies of the deadly fear of annoying his boss.

A beutifully tender and romantic story, Mazaak hi to Tha (Joke)  A young couple goes out to
have a little fun and the man encourages the lady to take a risky ride so he can express his love to her.  She loves the expression of his affection so much that wants to keep taking those rides but it turns out that it was just a jester , (A joke) by the guy.

In Daayan Kahin Ki,  (The Witch) A lonely wife is accused by her husband of being a witch because she can will a strom on wintery nights so the men can stop by to be warm and rest so she can have some  fun and company.

This production is directed precisely and simply.  The actors use milk crates and move them around from one area to another to set up the next scene,  The set is the least cumberson and gives the feeling of lightness and ease.

The whole cast is absolutely brilliant and many stand out even further.
Shailendra Khurana, Khagesh Pathak, Debjani Banerjee, Gayatri Desai, Jyoti Presswala and many more are particulary impressive.

The lighting design is very effective and creates appropriate atmosphere for every story.

This play is so much fun and is so strong and hilarious that it must be performed regularly and for  lor much longer run.  Its also educational about Chekov's work.

It was a very enjoyable evening for me. ICS Theatre company has done a tremendous job.

Bina Sharif: Publisher/Editor: artsinternational
Cell: 212-260-6207
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Friday, July 7, 2017





Measure for Measure is considered one of Shakespere's, "PROBLEM PLAY"  as well as a comedy and here at the theatre for a young audience it seems  more inclined towards a comedy as directed by Simon Godwin in a light-often laughter filled  manner even at some serious moments such as a beheading of a character. The production is done in contemporary dress and in a style quite unusual such as entry to the theater through a passage backstage designed as, "Mistress overdone's brothel" complete with sex toys and dim red lights creating an atmosphere for  sex and sin.

The play deals with issues of morality, responsibility of the state towards the seriousness as well as the lightness of crime, about faith and about justice.
In the opening scene we see the Duke Vincentio (Jonathan Cake) lying on a lavish table covered in white perhaps exhausted from partying and almost sick of his own lack of morality (he is shooting up
heroin) decides to shake up things by taking a vacation and putting Angelo (Thomas Jay Ryan ) an unbending, uncompromising and moralizing deputy incharge of the affairs of the State.  Angelo puts morality ahead of  the law, shuts down the brothels and give orders of grave punishments such as death for  a very light crimesuch as making a woman pregnant. The culprit is Claudio ( Leland Fowler ) the brother of Isabella (Cara Ricketts) who is training to be a nun  and is a virgin.

Duke Vincentio in the meantime doesn't leave and disguise himself as a friar and watches as well hatches many sub-plots to deal with the sever and frigid rules created by Angelo.
When Isabella finds out that his brother Claudio has been orderd to die by Angelo for making his woman pregnant she decides to meet Angelo to  beg for mercy and pardon for his brother.  The least flexible and morality ridden Angelo who despises the word, mercy agrees to pardon Claudio if Isabella agrees to give herself to him.
 Isabella in a great speech tells him that she would rather put chastity above his brother's life.

Isabella has an encounter with the fake friar (Duke Vincentio ) who hatches a plot to send
another woman whom Angelo had promised to wed and abandoned to share his bed hinking its Isabella...  Are you still with me?

Measure for Measure is full of sub-plots thus leading itself towards a bit of comedy as well a bit of a problem but the performances here helps the play move along brilliantly.  The best performance is by Cara Ricketts as Isabella.  She is majestic and handles the language superbly.  She is one of the best Isabella I have ever seen.  Jonathan Cake as the Duke is also very good and delivers with gusto.  Thomas Jay Ryan as Angelo is meticulously stern and rigid.  He is so good in his rightousness of moral belief and hypcricy that eventualy invites our hatred towards his character.

The production as a whole is lots of fun, it has a lot of diversity and accents and I think a great director like Simon Godwin might be the only one to take such challanges. He is an innovator for mixing classics and contemporary themes with such confidence and he doesn't disappoint.
Also to his credit as a director the language here is crisp and clear which is a joy.

Theatre for a young audience is a blessing in this town because thheir productions are always
courageous, innovating and superb always  showcasing great talent.

Bina Sharif: Publisher/Editor;

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


THEATER                A scene from, "THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS"                  

At Pollonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Pl till Dec 4, 2016

By Bina Sharif

Carlo Goldoni's 18th-Century farce "The Servant of Two Masters" which is produced by Theater For
a New Audience is extremely festive.  The play begins in darkness. Two men descend upon the stage with flashlights and discover some masks in a trunk lying in the middle of a warehouse or a desolate performance space and immediately after that the whole proscenium lights up with stars all over the skyscape which is then replaced by a deep blue sky studded with clouds. I just loved the stage design.

From the very beginning the style of the play,  commedia dell' arte which is improvisational in nature and involves the audience in an intimate manner is established and the whole house is in stiches.

The title charcter of the play, Truffaldino (Steven Epp) who gets into trouble and creates great confusion for every one else comes from a poor background and decides to enlist for two jobs, two masters.  First is Beatrice (Liz Wisan) who is in male disguise and has arrived in Venice pretending that she is her brother who had been killed in a duel. Her brother was engaged to the daughter of a merchant in Venice named Pantalone (Allen Gilmore).  Clarice (Adina verson)  is actually in love with another man, Silvio (Eugene Ma) and Beatrice's arrival puts Clarice in an un-happy situation
till Florindo (Orlando Pabotoy) Beatrice's lover also arives in Venice.

Smeraldina, the maid (Emily Young) falls in love with Truffaldino creating a bit more complexity
in a hectic houshold.  Emily Young turns out to be a very capable actress who has slightly different
style of performance which fits in the show nevertheless.

Every one in town had believed that Beatrice's brother was killed in a duel but he was actually killed by Florindo whose arrival excites Truffaldino to take advantage of the situation and serve the second master as well anticipating double salary. The plot is somewhat confusing but if there is no confusion then there is no commedia dell' arte.  The fun of this kind of theater is all the turns and twists which leads to a happy ending justifying a true comedy.

The production directed by Christpher Bayes is hillarious and frantic in an enticing way.
The show belongs to Steven Epp who is just amazingly equipped to be a buffoon and forever ready and willing to ad-lib without an ounce of hesitation and deliver most of the very contemorary jokes, (Many about the current election) and the audience is just ready for it.  The laughter is just non stop.
After a gruelling election people can't digest anything else but humor and Steven Epp provides that.
He is a very funny actor to say the least. Another wonderful performance is given by Allen Gilmore
in the role of Pantalone.  Most of the cast does a decent job.

The play has been adapted by Constance Congdon, translated by Christina Sibul.
The play is further adapted by Christopher Bayes and Steven Epp.

Since the play has many jokes about the election it becomes a source of innocent fun, escape and relief for the theater goers who might have been trying to shun the reality. Timing of the play is perfect.
Do not miss this delightful show.
Cell; 212-260-6207

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


  a theatrical biography by
At Castillo Theater.

Celebrating the 125th anniversary of the birth of Zora Neal Hurston, a prolific
novelist, playwright, outspoken and bold woman and personality in 1920s and 30s.
The play was produced by American Place theater in 1998 under the direction of
Wynn Handman who is the consulting director of the current production.
Elizabeth Van  Dyke  and Joseph Lewis Edwards recreates their original roles they played in 1998.

"Zora Neal Hurston" Is one of the most brilliant portrait of a historical literary figure
presented here by Superb Elizabeth Van Dyke.  In the very opening scene she is almost
at the end of her career and a heart broken woman who had been misunderstood and had many challanges and oppositions.  Its no joke to make a career as an outspoken black woman in 1920s and 30s.  The character in the begining of the play is going back to her hometown of Eatonville, Florida
and is waiting at a bus stop.

Within minutes her vigor and fighting spirit and her enormous ability to tell a story revives itself
and she narrates her past in vived details. She has humor and enegy even in some painful tellings of the past events.
 All the credit goes to a powerhouse of an actress,  Elizabeth Van Dyke.  She has a great stage presence and a melodious voice with the tinge of sadness, singsong, depth of feelings and  ability to recall a memory no matter how painful and then to turn that pain into instant joy.
 The actress goes through a long journey in just an hour and a half which keeps us,  the audience in total rapture.
I,  for sure loved her.  Its a very difficult endeavor to hold the audience's attention while one is portrying a historical figure whom many of the audience members might have known.
Though I never met Zora Neal Hurston but for me Elizabeth Van Dyke was her in a very human and majestic way because she made me forget that she was just an actress.

Joseph Lewis Edwards who plays, Herbert, Langston Hughes, Alain Locke and Richard Wright,
Poets and novelists and her contemporaries is another gem of an actor.  He was throughly believable
in all the roles and was charming as hell and also a wonderful singer.  I wanted more and more of his presence on stage.
Both actors had through understanding of the real people they were portrying.  Not an easy task to say the least but that's what a great actor does and these actors were just perfect in their roles.

The play is powerfully directed by Woodie King, Jr.

Laurence Holder is one of the most Important and brilliant writers of our times.  I have always enjoyed his work.  Earlier this year I saw, Sugar Ray, (Sugar Ray Robinson) in a site specific production at the restaurant where the boxer had a bar in Harlem.  It was just an amazing experience
which stayed with me till now.  I appreciate these kinds of historical plays which are extremely
educational experiences into the past of African American literature, their song, their struggle and
their achivements under all odds for a foreigner like me. I was very touched with this bold and sensitive production.

Zora Neal Hurston was known as the, "Queen of Harlem Renaissance"
And for all the right reasons.  She wanted to collect and preserve the language,
folklore, dance and song of the deep south which she did preserved in her Anthropology
research under the tutelage of Franz Boas at Barnard College.  A brilliant sory teller and
in courageous opposition of Jim Crow laws and black integration, she annoyed many black
intellectuals. In her later years she tumbled into obscurity because of false charges of child
molestation.  Her famous autobiography, Their Eyes Were Watching God, " and, 'Mules and Men"
a story collection of folklore are great achievements.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016





Produced by


Directed by ARIN ARBUS


Both plays are paired in repertory.  Both plays have the same leading actor, John Doughlas Thompson
Awsome, Brilliant and the most powerful classical actor on any stage and god's gift for us, the audience and Maggie Lacey, an actress who is pretty capable and decent to share the stage with Mr.Thompson. "A leapord of passion"

Both plays, "A doll's house" and "The father" are about entrappment in a marriage and not an ordinary marriage either but a 19th century Scandinavian marriage. The subject matter of both plays is the same.  Calustrophobia of a marriage within a particular social order.

In "A Doll's house" Nora, (Maggie Lacey) comes to a realization late in the play that she has never been happy and most probably have never loved her husband, Thorwald (Mr. Thompson)
 She has done something behind the husband's back out of love for him considering that he would understand if the secret is ever revealed and protect her but the situation turns out to be the most
ferocious and violent reaction by the husband and thats when she realizes that her marriage had been a catastrophe and a prison where she was unable to breath and the time has come where she needs to
free herself.  This play by Norwegian Ibsen is considered a monumental symbol for women liberation and feminism and is sympathetic and more sensitive towrds wife's character and is produced all over the world.

"The Father" which came later by the younger Swedish playwright Strindberg who felt that Ibsen wrogfully blamed the husband and was too soft towards women.  He wrote, "The Father" as a reaction to Ibsen's "Adoll's house"
to Ibsen's "A Doll's house."

In "The Father"  A captain, the husband and his wife Laura have been fighting over the future of their only child, Bertha (Kimber Monroe).  The husband wants her to be a teacher and wife wants her to be an artist.  Te captain is a man of science and ideas and convictions as solid as un-breakable rocks and certain phobias which leads to immense paranoia about certain convictions such as the proof of paternity of a child.  Laura takes advantage of this condition of her husband's and  comes up  with a Iago like plan and instill the most poisonous doubt in her husband's brittle mind which is at a breaking point already that Bertha might not be his biological child.

She also manipulate the family doctor into believing that her husband has gone insane.
Laure feels justified in destroying her husband because she believes that she has been his prisoner all along.  And once the doubt creeps in the captain's mind, there is no going back and this Othello like
Poisonous state of mind is rendered with  an un-believably powerful skill and passionate fury by Mr.Thompson who was  also the greatest Othello, a few years ago directed by Arin Arbus and produced by theater for a new audience in their old home.

I have never seen a  portrait of a devastating collapse of a brilliant but flawed mind better than in the characerization of Mr.Thompson.  I can't praise him enough but everytime I see him I am amazed at his ability, his diction, the melody in his voice, the clarity and the power of  his passion.

Arin Arbus is also a brilliant director.  She loves language and makes sure that we hear every word
uttered by all actors. Her staging is uncluttered and precise. Nothing else is required but the language and the talent.  What a delight to watch these great plays done in such a marvelous way.
Congratulations to Theater for the new audience.  I have always admired their work.