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. Continue reading


Mitchell Hébert, Gabriela Fernández-Coffey. Photo by Stan Barouh

Grace here. Reviews are a controversial topic amongst theater-folk. Some read them religiously, others pointedly ignore them. I think it was Rosemary Clooney who, when discussing reviews,  said something like, “You’re never as good as they say you are, but you’re never as bad as they say you are.”

My personal feeling about reviews reminds me of the mild anxiety I’ve always felt about introducing various boyfriends to my parents.  I wouldn’t love the guy any less if my parents didn’t like him. That being said, it’s infinitely more pleasant when they do.

Similarly, when you get that critical “stamp of approval,” and the writers you respect share your enthusiasm for the play that you’ve poured your blood and sweat into, it feels really, really good.

So it’s gratifying to read the Washington Post’s headline, “Sharp casting makes After the Fall an Enjoyable Epic” and know that their critic felt the same fascination with this “compulsively watchable” play that I did.

You can read the whole review here!

And it’s great to know that I have a kindred soul at Washingtonian, who  enthused about the play’s “enthralling boiling point” and Mitch Hébert’s “layered performance” just as I did after watching the dress rehearsal.

Click here for the Washingtonian’s full text.

We’ve got something very special here–everyone involved with this project has known it from Day One. Now the newspapers know it too! I hope the word keeps spreading, because I think people are going to be talking about this one for a long time. I certainly will, and it will be great to have more people to reminisce with!

The Boomerangers of Nantucket

Grace here. As usual, there are some intense conversations happening over here, and I wanted to loop you in on some of them and hear your thoughts. We’d love to hear your thoughts, either as a comment or on our new Community Response Page.

The reviews are in for Theater J’s new comedy The Moscows of Nantucket. and the responses have started a very intriguing debate about the increasingly evident ‘boomerang generation’ of young people returning to their parents homes.

The debate was prompted by the character of Ben Moscow, whom TBD’s Maura Judkis describes as “young man who is marginally employed and living with his parents.” In the same article, James Flanagan, the actor playing Ben, remarks, “For some people, the twenties have become extended teens and the thirties are the new twenties.”

In a DC TheatreScene Interview, Author Sam Forman says that the play’s depiction of a boomeranged adults stems from truth, sharing, “This play came from me looking at the lives of my friends, and thinking about whether they’ll end up where they want to end up.”   It may be that in the current generation, the gap between where we want to end up and where we actually do end up is getting wider.  Artistic Director Ari Roth remarks, “The play offers a challenging portrait of our downwardly mobile generation of young folks, floundering and aspiring…and the portraits are provocative — and dividing critics”

In his rave review, CityPaper’s Chris Klimek acknowledges that Ben is “eyeballing the abyss” but points out the bright side of the boomerang generation, noting, “Benjamin’s had the good fortune to hit bottom in a house owned by the people who love him most in the world. That’s a lucky thing, because family is priceless.”

Peter Marks of The Washington Post takes a different view, praising Forman as a “talented writer” but critical of Benjy’s immaturity in freeloading off his parents and mourning his lack of success, wondering, “whether America’s entitled children have been led to believe they’re more gifted and deserving of applause than is actually the case”.

Leslie Milk of The Washingtonian, who praises the play’s “rich comedic fodder” and “hilarious elan,” finds Flanagan “appealing” even while acknowledging that his boomeranged status and binge drinking ways render him “a loser at love and life.” And Variety Magazine takes a hard-line view of boomerangers, stating that a character like Ben, “in real life should have been forcefully booted from the nest,” even while admiring his “Simonesque” one-liners.

What do you think?  Are young adults trapped in an adulation-seeking adolescence?  Is this the age of entitlement, devoid of maturity and a sense of responsibility? Is Benjy a shlub and a failure, or an emblem of a generation victimized by recession and inflated expectations?

The Moscows of Nantucket doesn’t offer easy answers. But it does open up a pretty intriguing question. Whether the plight of a binge-drinking writer living in his parents basement touches your heart or turns your stomach, we want your responses! Use the code ‘DEBATE’ to save $20 so that you can check out the show, and keep the conversation going….

A Rave in The Post!


At Theater J, a graceful and nuanced revival of classic ‘Odd Couple’

By Nelson Pressley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 28, 2010

GUY TALK: “The Odd Couple’s” Rich Foucheux, left, Delaney Williams, Marcus Kyd, J. Fred Shiffman, Paul Morella and Michael Willis. (Stan Barouh)

Let’s start with the Friday-night group of guys in “The Odd Couple,” that laughably jangly bunch at odds over poker, playing on a table strewn with food and beer. On one side, the cards are being shuffled by Murray the cop, practically one by one. On the other, an impatient buddy — Speed — clenches his fist and sucks his teeth in exasperation, waiting in vain for the deal.

Thus begins the symphony of camaraderie and agitation that is Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” which is being revived merrily, and with relish for the details of annoying masculinity, at Theater J.

Delaney Williams is a big teddy bear as Murray, sweet and dim, while Marcus Kyd’s gritted-teeth performance as Speed neatly sets up Williams’s plaintive punch lines. As Roy, Paul Morella is a 1960s vision of manly bland imagination (black trousers, white shirt, heavy glasses), while Michael Willis, as Vinnie, amusingly coos over sandwiches (such guy bliss!) with Williams.

Of course, any account of “The Odd Couple” ought to begin with The Guys, Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar. But there is something in the essentially gentle connectedness around the poker table that establishes the course of Jerry Whiddon’s funny and unusually attentive production. The pokes in the ribs are nudges, not jabs, and that’s the tone with Rick Foucheux and J. Fred Shiffman as Oscar and Felix. They’re eternally indulgent pals, even when they want to gouge each other’s eyes out.

That doesn’t mean that Whiddon and company have sobered up this great American comedy, which is as hard-wired as any in our culture. (Oscar’s the slob, Felix is unbearably neat and curiously handy in the kitchen, and both their wives have left them for reasons that become obvious as they drive each other nuts.) Simon keeps the gags coming, and this cast of accomplished D.C. actors is too savvy to let his primo punch lines go to waste.

(To be keep reading the review in its entirety, click here)