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“Doubt” Reviewed by Dan Berkowitz

Mr. Shanley’s Pulitzer and Tony-winning play was originally titled, simply, “Doubt,” but when it was published, he changed the title to “Doubt: A Parable.” It’s a tricky piece, as there’s no real evidence one way or the other as to Father Flynn’s guilt or innocence: one may be certain, another may have doubt. In the end, Mr. Shanley seems to land on the side of doubt: can we ever know for certain what’s in another’s heart or mind? Is certainty – which so many these days seem to possess about the motives of others – a virtue or a flaw? Do we, perhaps, only really become human when we have… doubt?

Tennessee Williams is arguably America’s greatest playwright. Not quite as prolific as either Arthur Miller or Eugene O’Neill, but wittier than Miller and without, for the most part, O’Neill’s ham-handedness, the best of Williams might be described as “lyric realism” – real people, in real situations, but with dreams and ideas and dialogue which approach the poetic. The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Sweet Bird of Youth, The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, The Night of the Iguana – they won prizes, sure, but even if they hadn’t, they would still be acknowledged as masterpieces.

Of course, like virtually every playwright, not everything Tennessee Williams wrote was a masterpiece. It’s no diminution of his extraordinary talent to say some of his work is… um… well, many words come to mind: distasteful and icky are a few. And Baby Doll, despite a fine production at the Fountain Theatre, definitely qualifies for those two.

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Karen Rizzo is the author of “Mutual Philanthropy,” a new play in which a couple is invited to dinner by rich neighbors and complications ensue…

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Actors Rob Nagle and Deborah Puette star in “Please Don’t Ask About Becket,” by Wendy Graf which opens at Sacred Fools Theater Black Box on August 20.

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Aurin Squire is an award-winning playwright, journalist, and multimedia artist. A recent graduate of Juilliard, he’s had fellowships at the Dramatists Guild of America, National Black Theatre, and Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and has worked as a journalist for The New Republic, Talking Points Memo, ESPN, The Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, and over a dozen publications. His play “Running on Fire” will be at the O’Neill Theatre Conference this summer. His plat “Obama-ology” is at LA’s Skylight Theatre through August 28.

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Bart DeLorenzo’s production of “Go Back to Where You Are” by David Greenspan opens July 16 at the Odyssey Theatre.

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Less a play than an extended vignette, Bull is well-acted, crisply directed, elegant to look at, and for the most part quite entertaining. If, in the end, one walks out of the theatre grouchy and unsatisfied, it’s because the play, while often fun to listen to and watch, in the end simply spins its wheels in one spot for almost an hour without moving forward an inch.

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Amazingly, Mr. Shepperd and his cast have managed to recreate the joyous abandon of that show, along with the satisfaction quotient of a full-scale Broadway musical, on the postage-stamp sized stage of Celebration. Mr. Shepperd’s philosophy seems to be, if you’re in a small space, don’t scale things down – make ‘em bigger! It’s a great philosophy, and the result is brash and loud and over the top – in other words, a triumph. Go.

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“Dinner at Home between Deaths” bills itself as “A Pitch Black Comedy.” While it’s well-done and handsome to look at, the color of the completed dish turns out to be less pitch-black than one of the fifty shades of grey. The whole thing is much too polite; if only there were more enthusiastically rude touches, this show might have fulfilled its pitch-black promise.

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People who work in the theatre generally start out with high hopes and great expectations, good intentions and contagious enthusiasm. They work hard, do their best, and strive, with a goal of creating a work of art which will entertain, move, and perhaps even enlighten an audience. I applaud all of them, and count myself proud to be among them. Which is why it pains me to say that I found “Dirt,” now playing at the Raven Playhouse in NoHo, awful in just about every imaginable way.

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