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MINI-REVIEWS: Jean Lowerison shares her thoughts on 9 shows seen in New York

(Editor's note: The Tony Awards will be broadcast on CBS on Sunday evening. SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison just returned from New York City, where she saw nine shows. Here, for your pre-Tony Award delectation, are comments about the shows she saw. The plays are listed in the order seen.)

"Other Desert Cities"

A beautiful SoCal desert home serves as backdrop for a story about (what else?) a dysfunctional family. Stockard Channing always a pleasure to watch, as is Elizabeth Marvel as her daughter. Stacy Keach seemed to be going through the motions.

"The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess

The attempt to make this quintessential American opera into a hit Broadway musical is, well, interesting. But watching the residents of Catfish Row cavort in Broadway-style dances seemed just weird to this old broad raised on the opera. But expect a Tony for Audra McDonald, who does not disappoint.

"Tribes"

Playwright Nina Raine has an interesting idea, not realized as well as I would like. The plot: Billy (Russell Harvard), a deaf boy in a hearing family, meets Sylvia (Susan Pourfara), a hearing girl (though going deaf) raised in a deaf family. Sounds like a perfect match, right? But she finds the deaf community increasingly confining, while he (never before exposed to deaf culture) finds it liberating.

One problem: You may think the opening scene is badly acted because much of the dialogue is mumbled. That, research reveals, is to introduce us to Billy’s dilemma, living in a family that pretends he is not deaf.

"Cock"

Despite the unpublicizable title (New York ads call it “Cockfight Play”), Mike Bartlett’s fascinating meditation on love, lust and sexual preference is at the top of my list for this trip. Setup: two gay guys split; one ends up falling in bed with a woman he sees on the subway every morning. She falls for him: what does he do now?

"Newsies

Sharpen your “suspension of disbelief” capabilities before entering the theater. “Newsies” – about the labor movement as viewed from the vantage point of the boys who delivered papers on the streets of turn-of-the-20th-century New York – is a dance musical. Christopher Gattelli’s high-energy, athletic choreography should walk away with the Tony (and Jeremy Jordan has a good shot at the best-actor-in-a musical award as well). But how often have you seen dancing newsboys?

"Storefront Church"

Third in John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt” trilogy, this lacks the topical immediacy of the first’s consideration of clerical child abuse. In fact, it’s difficult to care very much about these characters at all.

"Death Of A Salesman

I will be much surprised if this doesn’t win the Tony for best revival; it is certainly up there among the very best productions I have ever seen of this Miller classic. Production values are excellent – set, costumes, lighting, all contribute mightily to the telling of this sad story. Cast universally fine (including Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy), though I reserve my long-held opinion that Dustin Hoffman is the best Willy I’ve ever seen.

"War Horse"

Stunning stagecraft puts life-size horse puppets (and many other characters) through their paces in this captivating story of a boy and his horse, set during the World War I era.

"February House"

This musical about housemates Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, Carson McCullers, W.H. Auden and Gypsy Rose Lee, presided over by George Davis (fiction editor of Harper’s Bazaar and later Mademoiselle) should be more fun than it is. Despite clever lyrics and witty repartee, the show can’t decide whether it’s just a roomie story or a bit of history. It isn’t enough of either.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.