Friday, February 17, 2012

Newsday Spotlights 5 New Playwrights, Including Erika Sheffer

Off-Broadway Spotlights 5 New Playwrights

 "Works by new or little-known playwrights are attracting most of the right attention in Off-Broadway theaters around town. Here are five I recently got to know.

RX by Kate Fodor
Primary Stages, 59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th St.; 212-279-4200;

CQ/CX by Gabe McKinley
Atlantic Theater, Norton Space, 555 W. 42nd St.; 212-279-4200;

New Group, 410 W. 42nd St.; 212-239-6200;

Erika Sheffer tackles both a family tragicomedy and a big-picture global crime in her off-center, highly original and impressive playwriting debut. We are in the Sheepshead Bay bungalow of a struggling but loving family of Russian-Jewish immigrants. In moves the mother's handsome, increasingly menacing brother (played with imposing, silky duplicity by Morgan Spector). His arrival from Russia is first folded into the everyday family banter, before he ensnares the teenage children (beautifully played by Sarah Steele and Raviv Ullman) and, ultimately, reveals secrets that are genuinely surprising.

Despite some weirdness in her Russian accent, Janeane Garofalo is a sturdy, funny-serious and welcome presence as the nobody's-fool mother. Scott Elliott, head of The New Group, directs his new find with the tenderness and brutality it deserves. How he got the cast (including Daniel Oreskes as the hardworking father) to speak Russian -- or at least to sound as if he were speaking Russian -- is a very good mystery.

YOSEMITE by Daniel Talbott
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place, 212-279-4200;, closing Feb. 26

PSYCHO THERAPY by Frank Strausser
Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce St., 212-352-3101;, closing Feb. 25"

Time Out NY
'Critics Pick'

"Erika Sheffer’s engrossing moral thriller starts in familiar domestic comedy, with a Russian-immigrant twist, then veers into ugly new territory with the arrival of a sexually charged sociopath (an impressive Morgan Spector). The mostly excellent ensemble cast, directed smartly by Scott Elliott, drives the play ahead forcefully on ever-twisting roads."

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