ANDY Opens “Finding Laughter In a House of Sorrows” – Washington Post + others

Grace Here. I am so thrilled to say that we can officially call our world premiere production of Andy and the Shadows ‘Critically Acclaimed!’ 

I wanted to share some of this acclaim with you using review links and snippets. There’s a lot of insight, a lot of smart analysis, a lot of people comparing Alexander Strain to a strangely wide gamut of movie stars (John Cusack/Marlon Brando/Woody Allen/Zach Braff), and a lot of love.

Check it out, and then add your two cents, either on, here on the blog, or whatever medium fits your fancy!

The Washington Post

Kimberly Gilbert, Alexander Strain, Colleen Delany

Kimberly Gilbert, Alexander Strain, Colleen Delany. Photo by Stan Barouh

Warmly probing comedy about the impact of unanswered questions of a child of Holocaust survivors.

-That Roth, longtime artistic director of Theater J, manages to mine the confusion of an anguishing legacy for knowing laughs is one of the higher achievements of this embraceable play

-The winning embodiment of questing Andy is mastered here by Alexander Strain, who as the evening’s tireless anchor gives one of the strongest performances of his Washington career.

-Playing Andy’s mother, Raya, who’s resonantly maternal and a teensy bit scary, Jennifer Mendenhall, too, offers the type of textured portrayal that fully inhabits the Goldman Theater stage at the D.C. Jewish Community Center.

Andy’s nuclear family, completed by Stephen Patrick Martin, Colleen Delany and Kimberly Gilbert — plus Veronica del Cerro as Sarah, his patient (up to a point) fiancee — exists under Daniella Topol’s deft direction in a convincing whirlpool of alienation and affection.

-Roth’s rhythms…combine the confessional tone of Arthur Miller’s “After the Fall” and the wry reflections of Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall.”

-It’s difficult to imagine an actress better equipped than Mendenhall to bring out the yin-yang of Raya’s downy-stony personality. She and Strain create an admirable illusion of parent-child intimacy, the complex kind in which emotions are strong — and yet certain lines cannot be crossed.

-touching… As the women in Andy’s life, del Cerro, Delany and Gilbert are guided by Topol to appealing portrayals elevated by their fealty to truth.

– As Roth’s comedy unlocks Andy’s insecurities, Theater J just as commendably makes the keys to the playhouse more accessible to the city’s writers.

Broadway World

very darkly funny

Roth uses a cascade of storytelling techniques-from flashbacks, to flashforwards, visions and interviews and an ill-fated “play, aka screenplay, within a play”-to get at the subtexts of this family through the ever-present medium of dark comedy.

-Director Daniella Topol has woven a tight and versatile ensemble cast who fluidly embody the Glickstein family and a host of other incidental characters.

A polished and witty production

DC Metro Theatre Arts


-a formidable and moving imprint of the far-reaching reverberations of the Holocaust and the consequent displacement of the Jews – externally as well as internally – on the second generation of survivors.

-Jennifer Mendenhall gives a powerful performance

-Ari Roth’s Andy and the Shadows is bound to become a work of outstanding artistry.

Washington Examiner

-There are many extraordinary moments in “Andy and the Shadows,” the most stunning of them involving Andy’s mother as a young girl.

-moving and credible.

-The humor is sharp, incisive and, as the excellent Strain portrays Andy, more than a little manic and obsessive.

-The play is capably directed by Daniella Topol, whose sterling cast creates an intense constellation of people surrounding the central star, Andy.

Washington City Paper

– warm and woolly… winning

-I could not stop thinking of Roth’s hyperliterate memoir-with-benefits… as High Fidelity

-it’s got duende to spare

Washington Jewish Week

Jennifer Mendenhall, Colleen Delany, Kimberly Gilbert, Alexander Strain, Stephen Patrick Martin. Photo by Stan Barouh
Jennifer Mendenhall, Colleen Delany, Kimberly Gilbert, Alexander Strain, Stephen Patrick Martin. Photo by Stan Barouh

-Bridging history, fantasy, memory and imagination, the work navigates the thorny quest of a son seeking his place and voice in the world and reconciles his identity as a child of survivors who have succumbed to comfortable middle class.

-Part Woody Allen neurotic, part scenery-chewing Marlon Brando, Alexander Strain’s Andy can’t come to terms with his mother’s history, nor can he settle on a wedding date with his fiance, Sarah

-Roth has borrowed from other major playwrights, too, it seems, ranging from the standard Clifford Odets kitchen table family drama scene in act one, to an Arthur Miller-like monologue and fluidity of time, and a Tony Kushner hospital scene (with a black male nurse to boot) and that dream-like, girl-child angel, which recalls Kushner’s Angels in America. And like a Tennessee Williams play, there is hidden tragedy woven into the very fabric of the characters’ lives that initially hampers Andy from moving forward, until his breakthrough discovery, which arrives while he’s jailed overnight for filming without a permit in a synagogue parking lot.

-Roth’s smart and erudite dialogue, which is reproduced under director Daniella Topol’s care, elevates a very personal story filled with internal obstacles, twists, flashbacks and detours that his Andy character strives to overcome.

-…Read Miller, or Williams or Kushner and you can easily take a certain measure of each as both a playwright and a man, tracing characters back to experiences they have lived. The same holds true for Roth.


-The hijinks transition into a satisfying reveal of the Glickstein’s family secret.

-Director Daniella Topol leads the stellar cast

DC Theatre Scene

-In Ari Roth’s Andy and the Shadows, obsessive filmmaker Andy Glickstein doggedly searches for the momentous, globe-spanning history buried beneath his quiet, suburban life. As the complex, time-shifting drama unfolds, it becomes clear that nothing – including family, wedding plans, and even the truth – will stand in Glickstein’s way.

Roth’s canny writing reveals much about each character in this first exchange.

– Playwright Roth has seeded Andy’s mind with deep, Woody Allen-level angst that clouds his blessings with worry and doubt.

Andy and the Shadows  is a vivid examination of how we view our parents, our culture, and our personal history, all curated with an artist’s touch

– Director Daniella Topol and her talented cast pull it together to mirror the perfect imperfection of family life, with all its pitfalls and heartwarming surprises.

Jennifer Mendenhall and Alexander Strain. Photo by Stan Barouh

Jennifer Mendenhall and Alexander Strain. Photo by Stan Barouh

Maryland Theatre Guide

-a good story…about how one confronts one’s own family history, deals with it, and carries it on.

-a comedy of dysfunctional domesticity amid the struggles of growing up and moving on, but also a discovery of a deeper, sobering family secret.


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