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AWAKE AND SING At the core of this play, and, one is tempted to say, at the core of this ensemble, is Bessie Berger, the dictatorial mama who takes no prisoners in her struggle to hold everything together and decent, according to her lights. Once Stella Adler—in a role Clurman forced upon her—Bessie Berger is now Zoe Wanamaker in a performance as solid as a Rodin sculpture with warm blood running in its veins. Though never at a want for words, she needs none when forever yanking the window shades down that her father, the old barber, keeps yanking up. And no words, but a whole drama of its own passes through the silence of the slow, gradual, eyeball-to-eyeball realization—the most terrible moment in Bessie’s life—that her 26-year-old unmarried daughter is pregnant. Her daughter—her son who brings in $16 a week from the warehouse and has a chip on his shoulder about everything—her father with his damned endless Enrico Caruso phonograph records—all this will one day bust Bessie’s gall. Not without cause. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust. At the Belasco Theater the American theater is alive and singing. Odets lives. 111 W. 44th St. Through Jun. 25. $51.25-$86.25 at 212-239-6200. (Jerry Tallmer)

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Bridge and Tunnel In putting together “Bridge and Tunnel,” poet/playwright Sarah Jones demonstrates that she is an accomplished technician and mimic—and not very much more. Her ability to assume accents and to do them consistently is impressive. However, like any mechanical trick, it quickly loses its power to fascinate. Jones portrays a variety of characters who have come to a poetry slam in South Queens—all immigrants who have somehow come together through the Internet—the force of poetry being sufficient to eradicate all preconceptions, racial or religious stereotypes. Would that it were true. Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 W. 44th St. Through Jul. 9. $26.25-$86.25 at 212-239-6200. (Christopher Byrne)

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THE CAINE MUTINY Under the exceptional direction of Jerry Zaks, the play takes on a resonance for today’s world that is subtle but powerful. At the heart of it are such themes as manipulation for selfish ends, the desire for power, mental stability, willful blindness, and the nature of truth. Set as the play is against the backdrop of World War II, it nonetheless has absolute relevance to today as we question the U.S.’s current role in the world. This is not a trumpeting political statement, but rather is a more quiet contemplation of the uses and abuses of power. As such, it becomes very moving, especially when issues such as national pride, ethics, and human choice are factored in. Sadly, it seems more palatable in this 60-year-old guise. Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St., $47.25-$96.25 at 212-239-6200. (Christopher Byrne)

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The Color Purple Spousal abuse. Rape. Incest. Murder. Not exactly the stuff of which Broadway musicals are made. At least not musicals that expect to recoup their investment. But in bringing “The Color Purple” to the stage, at a cost of $10 million, lead producer Scott Sanders knew better. He assembled a crack creative team that was able to amplify the uplifting themes from the landmark 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker—faith, overcoming adversity, finding self-love—and turn the doleful epic into a toe-tapping, knee-slapping feel-good fest. Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway. $26.25 - $101.25 at 212-239-6200. (David Kennerley)

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THE DROWSY CHAPERONE Musical lovers also know that there isn’t a single moment in life that can’t be improved, explained, or experienced more poignantly through the right original cast album. From joy to heartbreak and everything in between, there’s a song from some musical that always fits. Musical lovers are very often considered freaks to those who don’t get it. Well, there’s vindication for those who turn to the musical for inspiration and solace. It’s the splendid new show “The Drowsy Chaperone,” an unabashed valentine to the musical form and its seductive ability to make sense of life and put it in perspective through song and dance. Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway at 45th St. $25-$110 at 212-307-4100. (Christopher Byrne)

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Faith Healer With “Faith Healer,” playwright Brian Friel delivers one of my favorite types of evenings in the theater—a small story, richly and warmly told that exists as much in the art of the storytelling and the characters as it does in the plot. A series of four monologues, the story is ostensibly about the 20 years that an itinerant faith healer, Frank, spent with his wife, Grace, and manager, Teddy, as they scrapped together a living going town to town in the U.K. That’s at least the surface plot. The real story is about how we create our own realities, how we are separate even in community, and the ways in which the heart can guide choices the head might never make. Booth Theatre, 222 W. 45th St. $76.25-$96.25; 212-239-6200. (Christopher Byrne)

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The History Boys In a world that measures worth in dollars (or pounds) and that has traded education for specialized knowledge, have we lost some elements of what makes us uniquely human? That question, though it remains tantalizingly unanswered, is at the center of the sensational new play, “The History Boys,” which opened recently on Broadway. The plot concerns a group of private school boys who are preparing for scholarship exams to get into Oxford and Cambridge. That, at least, is the basic plot, and Alan Bennett’s richly detailed and artfully written play is the greatest argument for the value of a traditional liberal arts education I’ve seen in years. Broadhurst Theatre 235 W. 44th St. $46.25-$96.25; 212-239-6200. (Christopher Byrne)

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HOT FEET Here’s a pitch—a show, based on “The Red Shoes,” set to the irresistible music of Earth Wind and Fire! Maurice Hines conceived it, Heru Ptah wrote the book, and Maurice White added some new songs to the EW&F standards. What sounds like a foolproof concept has been turned into a cliché-ridden concoction. The abundant choreography, which borrows from hip-hop, krumping, ballet, and Lester Horton via Alvin Ailey modern—keeps recycling the same flashy writhing, hip grinding, and split leaps over and over in an array of garish costumes by Paul Tazewell that range from futuristic silver unitards to party-colored street wear to lacy black lingerie to black armor with Darth Vader-like helmets. Hilton Theater, 213 W. 42nd St. $25-$100 at 212-307-4100. (Gus Solomons jr)

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Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris The song cycle takes Brel’s prolific work and boils it down to about 20 numbers that show his emotional and musical range. It is decidedly French. The highs border on the manic, the lows are quite bleak, but through it all there is an unmistakable spirit and adult sensibility that takes life on its own terms and confronts it with an honesty that gives actor/singers something to really sink their teeth into as they sing of love, live, anguish, angst. The compelling and artful production staged by Gordon Greenberg features four very talented singers. The Zipper, 336 W. 37th St. $65 at 212-239-6200. (Christopher Byrne)

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Lestat With “Lestat,” the creators and producers have tried to cram into the show all the elements a general audience would know and love about Anne Rice’s books. This is natural given how familiar they are; but in doing so, they minimize the show’s dramatic potential as the piece becomes driven by plot, rather than character. The story’s all there, but all emotional connection with the audience has been jettisoned. Rice’s characters, who are intriguing, vibrant, sexual, and passionate on the page become flat, sadly, laughable, and ultimately deadly dull on stage. In her books, Rice made the concept of living forever as a vampire perversely appealing, and killing the ultimate kinky sex act. Elton John and crew have made it seem a fate worse than death. Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway. $35-$110; 212-307-4100 (Christopher Byrne)

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THE ODD COUPLE Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick give command performances in this classic comedy. Expect no surprises as the stars fight it out as two cohabitating, very different characters, the anal-retentive versus the common slob. It is charming though—particularly in the performances by Brad Garrett as Murray the Cop, Lee Wilkof as Vinnie, and Olivia d’Abo and Jessica Stone as the Pigeon sisters. Brooks Atkinson Theatre 256 W. 47th St. Through Jun. 4. $60-$100 at 212-307-4100. (Christopher Byrne)

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ONE MAN’S WAR Michael Marinaccio plays Doug Hulbert, a gang member who is given a choice by a judge to either go to jail or enter the Marine Corps. Doug chooses the Corps and we follow his experiences in boot camp, in Viet Nam and afterward. Marinaccio endows Doug with great strength of character and we identify with him even though he is a hood. The performance is bold and riveting as we enter this young man’s thoughts about war—from his initial enthusiasm through the experience of scorn upon his return home. Triad Theater, 158 W. 72nd St. Saturdays at 3 p.m. $35, $25 veterans, $20 students at 212-352-3101 (Gerard Robinson)

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THE PAJAMA GAME Kathleen Marshall’s bold, bright and exuberant revival of “The Pajama Game” is the perfect antidote to the midwinter blues. This classic show from 1954 that generally inspires groans when people talk about it—conjuring as it does images of bad high school and summer stock productions—is much more likely to inspire awe in the energetic and carefree production. Don’t ask for anything but to be entertained. The Roundabout Theater Company, American Airlines Theater, 227 W. 42nd St. Through Jun. 11. $66.25-$111.25 at 212-719-1300. (Christopher Byrne)

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RED LIGHT WINTER When sex is commodified, is love possible? Does anyone care? These are the questions that haunt one long after the end of Adam Rapp’s most mature drama to date. What makes the play so amazing is that Rapp, who also directed beautifully, has balanced the simplicity of a love triangle with the complexity of the emotions and the larger-scale sense of a world that has spun out of control. There is no happy ending for any of the characters, and the tragedies have an almost classic purity brought down to a paltry human scale. Barrow Street Theater, 27 Barrow St. at Seventh Ave. So. $65 at 212-239-6200. (Christopher Byrne)

RING OF FIRE. The so-called tribute to the music of Johnny Cash is an almost intolerably tedious jukebox musical, rattling around with “Good Vibrations” at the bottom of the cracker barrel. Richard Maltby Jr., who rustled up this mess, has strung a lot of Cash songs together and pretended it was a show. He assembled a talented cast of singers, but by the end of the first act, it’s apparent that Johnny Cash recorded the same song over and over and over. Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th St. $86.25-$101.25 at 212-239-6200. (Christopher Byrne)

STUFF HAPPENS “Stuff Happens” has the scope and energy of Shakespeare’s history plays. Using their own words and artfully orchestrated events, it tells the tale of a group of repellant people who fashion themselves as Henry V—the warrior king who whipped his nation into a great victory on the force of words and belief. The brilliance of Hare’s play is the darkly poetic structure that shows that they are not taking Agincourt against all odds. We are actually in the world of Henry VI, in which a young, feckless, and inexperienced king loses all by his impractical faith and a bevy of craven advisors. Hare casts Colin Powell, beautifully played by Peter Francis James, as the tragic figure in this—the voice of reason in a world spinning out of control. The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street. $50; 212-239-6200. Ends May 28. (Christopher Byrne).

SWEENEY TODD Rich in storytelling, gripping in intellectual scope, and performed by a superlative cast, this quintessential 20th century musical, with book by Hugh Wheeler and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, has been reconceived for today’s world. Intimate, gripping, and more darkly disturbing than previous productions, it is political theater of the first order in the guise of a seat-edge storytelling experience. The Eugene O’Neill Theater, 230 W. 49th St. $35-$100 at 212-239-6200. (Christopher Byrne)

THREE DAYS OF RAIN Paul Rudd is wonderful in two distinct performances, and Bradley Cooper brings an inherent charm to his two roles, which are versions of the same person. Julia Roberts turns in a very credible performance. What works is how present and focused she is throughout. In the first act, in which she plays a suburban housewife, seeking her runaway, disturbed brother, she is helpless and concerned and fed up all under a veneer of propriety. At one point, she simply pulls on the belt of her trench coat as if to try to hold herself together. There are many of these small moments, but they feel true and natural. Her second act character is showier, which requires less detailed work, but Roberts’ movie star charm carries her through it gracefully. Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W. 45th St. $61.25-$101.25 at 212-239-6200. Through Jun. 18. (Christopher Byrne).

The Threepenny Opera Roundabout’s production of “The Threepenny Opera” is, ironically, perfect for the world of reality television. Harsh, mean, focused almost entirely on presentation and overly and superficially sexualized, the production is quite something to look at and has isolated moments of brilliance. At the same time, largely due to Wallace Shawn’s clumsy new translation, the world of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill lacks any of the focus needed to convey the satire of a corrupt and bourgeois society on the brink of self-destruction. Nonetheless, theater demands to be seen and interpreted in the context of the present, and the notion that vanity, sex, and selfish pleasure are rending the fabric of human society is intriguing. If our ability to communicate has become so debased that all we have left is vulgarity and animalistic urges, order and perhaps even civilization are on their last legs, indeed. 254 W. 54th St. Through Jun. 18. $36.25-$111.25 at 212-719-1300. (Christopher Byrne)

WELL “Why can’t you make yourself well?” the tearful, exasperated Lisa Kron asks her mother towards the climax of “Well,” her comic bio-play that she initially denies is about herself, or her mother. She declares the work a “multi-character theatrical exploration of issues of health and illness both in the individual and in a community.” By offering glimpses from her childhood, the 45 year-old Kron hopes to elucidate why some people get sick and then get better, while others spend their entire lives in a chronic miasma of unwellness, dragging down everyone around them. Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St. $26.25-$86.25 at 212-239-6200. (David Kennerley)

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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