The Lion ROARS: what a great piece of theater.

The Lion
by Wickham Boyle
Wednesday Feb 11, 2015

Ben Scheuer (
A 5 p.m. matinee on a snowy Saturday seemed like a punishment, when all I wanted was tea and comfort, but two minutes into Ben Scheuer’s “The Lion” at the Culture Project, was the only place I could imagine being. What a joy, a wild unexpected ride and a heart-opening experience.

Benjamin Scheuer is tall and fit and so handsome with a shock of messy brown hair and fingers so fast on any of the seven guitars arrayed on stage that for the music and the visage alone you may be willing to surrender to his one-man show. His voice is never perfect, but so alluring, and even better than perfection is the story he has to tell. Scheuer is sharing with us, ever so generously, the tale of his coming to manhood. And we all know that voyage is full of trips, cracking voices, explosions, challenges, sadness and joys, but his is a gripping one.

Scheuer had a stern mathematician father who also harbored a desire and talent for music. He taught young Ben to play on a banjo constructed out of a pie pan with rubber bands and Ben and his dad played music on and off with his two younger brothers. The three boys comprised the lion pack inside the family’s pride. Scheuer’s father was mercurial, one day sweet and funny the next screaming and abusive. Ben caught his full wrath in the weeks leading up to his 14th birthday and then tragically his father died before there could be a denouement.

His British mother took young Ben and the other lion cubs back to England for boarding school and more strictness. Finally Ben headed back to America to be an erstwhile musician; along the way he falls in love, plays hard rock, falls ill and recovers. Well, we knew he would get better otherwise someone else would be telling the story, but knowing he ascends doesn’t in any way diminish this glorious, uplifting piece.

The stories are heartfelt and never maudlin, the music is sweet, or tangy or sad and sings and twangs to tug on our heartstrings. The piece moves with the well-paced direction of Sean Daniels and combines so seamlessly that at the end the tired, cold audience rose to its feet cheering.

The Lynn Redgrave Theater, one of the many spaces at Culture Project, is a clean theater, one that seems to accommodate many different kinds of work at varying levels of wonder and resonance. But the technical elements, the design, the sound, the lights are always so well wrought. In this instance the spare but alluring set design was by Neil Patel, light by Ben Stanton and sound, which worked so well by Leon Rosenberg. This is a great winter interlude.

“The Lion” runs through March 29 at The Culture Project, 45 Bleecker Street in New York City. For information or tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit


Wallace Shawn’s Talk House

Evening at the Talk House
by Wickham Boyle
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Feb 17, 2017

I have seen many of Wally Shawn’s plays from the tiny to the monumental. I have attended them as I had friends and theater colleagues who were involved in the productions. I often felt I might not be bright enough to fully understand all the nuance, intellectual excursions, sexual innuendos and comedy that inhabited his plays like “Aunt Dan and Lemon,” “Our Late Night,” “The Designated Mourner,” “The Fever,” or “Marie and Bruce.” But I persisted, as I was always challenged and provoked. “Evening at the Talk House” is no different.

Jill Eikenberry, Larry Pine, Claudia Shear, Michael Tucker in Wallace Shawn's 'Evening at the Talk House'

Jill Eikenberry, Larry Pine, Claudia Shear, Michael Tucker in Wallace Shawn’s ‘Evening at the Talk House’  


The cast is stellar and the work opens with a cocktail party in progress. As we enter audience members are offered sweets and a cocktail resembling either Windex or a coral-colored weak version of Tang. We shuffle in, and are not given programs, (I usually like that as there it eliminates rustling, but sometimes as a reviewer I like to know who is doing what to whom.)

The actors amble off except Wallace Shawn, looking as if he’d been recently beaten, wearing pajamas and a tweed sport coat. He sits to the side and Matthew Broderick, in a too-tight velvet jacket, begins a very long monologue, basically telling us what will happen.

We are at an inn called the Talk House. We are there for a reunion of sorts to celebrate the tenth anniversary of a play written by Broderick’s character Robert. The speech is long and nearly mind-dulling. Again, is this the purpose; to lull us into thinking that the entire evening is about exploring the complaints and indulgent musings of another privileged, middle-age, white man?

The work continues with a discourse between Shawn’s character Dick, (honestly, no one can be named Dick without some sinister side to him, right?) and Robert. It seems at one point that the aging Dick was in Robert’s circle, but they haven’t seen each other in years. Robert abandoned theater work, bemoaning that as an art form it is nearly dead. This elicits titters from a live audience.

Robert moved from theater to television and during this play everyone name-drops silly pretend shows like “Mouse Chatter” and the names of fictitious producers, writers, and actors, which must have been such a blast to invent. Dick begins his monologue revealing to Robert that his bruises are the result of a beating he received at the hands of his friends. He says that it wasn’t unpleasant and he enjoyed much of it.

They both keep intoning. “Where are the old days? They used to be great.” This is certainly a parody on the Trumpian notion of make anything great again, meaning, bring back the old days when straight white men were in power and held in a place of undeserved reverence.

As the two former colleagues banter, the rest of the party arrives. There is Tony, the always dry, witty Larry Pine who has been in Shawn’s work since the get-go and was an original member of Andre Gregory’s groundbreaking Manhattan Project. Tom is now a famous actor and a beloved TV star.

Jill Eikenberry and her actual husband Michael Tucker play Nellie the innkeeper and Bill, a well-heeled producer. The cast includes John Epperson as Ted, a composer from the play being feted. Many viewers know Epperson as his stunning drag character Lypsinka. It was a treat to see him with just a hint of eyeliner and his own lanky self, holding court both at the piano and doing some campy acting.

The cast is rounded out by Claudia Shear, a performer who wears many hats including a writer and actor; and finally the only young, non-white, cast member, Annapurna Sriram, who works with Jane the innkeeper and reveals plenty of secret talents as the party heats up.

At first the play seems like an investigation of sophomoric indulgence regarding older, white, privileged, rich folks assessing their lives as swathes of things gone marvelously well, or a tumble into heinous failure. But as the platters of shrimp cocktail and towering cheese trays are consumed and cocktails morph from scotch to champagne, a quiet dystopic trope invades and like a body snatcher appears, and slinks back into a candlelit discussion of who slept with whom, who is crazy and oh yes, by the way, who has signed up to be either a murderer or a “targeter.”

The admission by Annette, the former costume designer, that what she really does for her living is “target” those who should be eliminated. She believes she is making her country safe by having those she deems dangerous in Malaysia or Indonesia killed for the greater good. It is the biggest game version of collateral damage ever imagined and it is chilling. And if you dozed off, like some of the folks snuffling around me, you might have missed this first militaristic confession. You see the play then closes ranks and we again talk about TV shows and who is alive or dead.

And then the darkness descends. Ted the piano man announces that he too dabbles in working as a targeter and while it brings good money, he also feels he is helping his country. You don’t need, as Dylan, postulated, “a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.” This can easily be the intellectualized, dramatized extension of Trump’s exclusionary politics.

In reality we have: the wall, the travel ban, the ginning up of hatred of one group against another and the politics of fear of the brown people vs. the bring back the real America, white folks. We all see it everyday and it is augmenting.

So this play, written before the Trumpian rise and premiered in London in fall 2015, sensed what might be a plausible arc of fear leading to the murder of anyone we deem dangerous. And why wouldn’t regular underemployed folks not take up the mantle of murder in the name of protectionism and safety?

We learn that the only one in the group who actually has stuck targets with poison pins is the youngest member of the group. In a stage lit only by candles, we see young Jane and rich Robert huddled drunk on the couch talking about their affair, which seems as if it might have tended closer to rape. Robert recalls it as a wonderful interlude and yet Jane says it was horrible and she now only thinks about killing herself. They embrace. And Jane continues to ramble on about suicide.

Off stage we hear cries from Nellie. They are a rhythmic patter, which earlier we learned were the specific death rattle of a new disease attacking many in this thespian circle. The screams mount and yes of course we learn that right there in the very safe space of the Talk House, where the table is littered with crystal and a celebratory cakes, the ever kind and generous Nellie is dead. Lights out.

The cast takes a bow, each holding a votive candle and we walk out to be greeted by our programs. The evening is neither uplifting nor a place to forget about the horrible swirl that is our personal political caldron of late, but as usual Shawn’s work does provide grist for every brain cell you have and then asks you to look for a few more.

“Evening at the Talk House” runs through March 12 at The Signature Theater, 480 W 42 Street. For tickets or information, call 212-244-7529 or visit


by Wickham Boyle
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Dec 23, 2016


We live in a time of treachery, tyranny and deception when false news, mendacity and racism rule our rulers and cloud our lives. Welcome to “Othello.” Written in 1603 Shakespeare’s Moor and his goad Iago are an equal pack of villains who are manipulated by hatred and insecurity and then act upon gossip and concocted scenarios to create a world filled with havoc and writhing bodies.

Are you ready for this? The New York Theater Workshop’s excellent version of “Othello” will leave you wrung out, speechless and begging for more. This modern-day production converted the theater on East Fourth Street into an environmental set of roughshod, wood-hewn army barracks. Andrew Lieberman’s set announces itself before you walk in, as the aroma of fresh cut pine wafts through the air.

Once inside, a conscript lies on his bunk, comprised of mattresses tossed willy-nilly on the floor of the stage. He plucks his guitar. Another soldier joins him, as do more, including a former actual Vet who removes his prosthesis and lolls on his mattress, all this as the audience wanders in to find their seats and be instructed by the eager ushers to carefully stow your own gear and keep aisles open. The play will rush past you at times, so do not step into the center of the field of play.

The room is brightly lit and then darkness falls and lingers and we hear murmurs from the soldiers and see them furtively looking at their electronic devices, which for an instant light their faces and portions of the room. The play begins as the Duke, played with grand nature diction by David Wilson Barnes, unfolds a portion of the premise.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure and terror of reading or seeing “Othello” recently, let me attempt a short synopsis. Othello is a Moorish ( meaning black and Muslim) captain in the Venetian army. The play opens in the midst of an argument between Roderigo, who is a wonderful, lisping comic diversion in this production (Matthew Maher) and our master villain Iago, played by Daniel Craig.

Craig enters, almost unnoticed in khaki shorts, a ball cap and a ratty green T-shirt. He speaks and the room vibrates with his command. This first scene shows that Iago has many fish to fry with his cunning. He has convinced Roderigo to sell everything he owns to get money so that Roderigo can woo Desdemona and marry her. When Roderigo learns that Desdemona has married Othello, a general whom Iago serves as a lowly ensign, a fight ensues and the brawls continue.

Iago is juggling, pitting men and woman against each other. He entreats his wife Emilia, the strong, snappy Marsha Stephanie Blake, to unwittingly plot against her mistress, the limpid-eyed, lovelorn Desdemona, Rachel Brosnahan. The audience titters as Iago is referred to endlessly as honest Iago. We know what lurks in his heart and brain. We watch as Iago sets up a sweet-faced Cassio, played so well by Finn Wittrock, to be the imagined lover to Othello’s wife Desdemona.

As we watch the mark, Othello be set up by Iago, we observe the tyranny of false news setting a fire of hatred among individuals and a community. David Oyelowo as Othello is a pillar of ebony perfection. He takes the stage at first as a man beset with love and we watch him devolve into a monster infected by “the green-eyed monster” of jealousy.

In the scene where we see him lose his countenance the lighting designer, Jane Cox, lights the stage in green LED lights and uses the light of cell phones and devices to create a ghostly pallor. At times with the stage lit by devices rather than theatrical lighting I wanted to see more clearly, but I applaud the creative use and the metaphor of all the machine lights in our modern life that flood us and yet perhaps divert us from the real life and light around us.

And so the story unfolds. The audience returns after intermission and the actors roar back onto the stage and alas we know what will greet us. Desdemona is murdered, strangled viciously by her Moorish husband; all the while Iago is setting about killing Cassio, Roderigo and finally shoots his own wife Emilia. Cassio’s sweetheart is dispatched (the very affable Bianca played by Nikki Massoud, an actor I hope to see more of in the future). The floor is littered with bodies and blood. The screams have subsided and yet there is more.

Craig and Oyelowo surge at each other wrestling, thrashing on the floor, certainly earning the knee and elbow pads worn for this very athletic production. Then Othello finds a knife hidden under his mattress and stabs himself, leaving only the wretched Iago heaving in horror. The soldiers cover the bodies and silence descends. Iago moves across the stage and touches Othello’s back and we are pitched into black.

The audience rises to their feet and the cast runs out for curtain calls. We are so close, we sense and share their exhilaration and exhaustion. This play is a Herculean event that leaves nothing, as they say, on the field.

“Othello” runs through January 18, 2017 at the New York Theatre Workshop, 79 E. Fourth St. in New York. For information or tickets, call 212-460-5475 or visit

Dear Evan Hansen

THE EDGE Entertainment » Theatre
Dear Evan Hansen
by Wickham Boyle
Monday Dec 12, 2016

“Dear Evan Hansen” brings adolescent angst, cheers and tears to Broadway and the brilliant, breakout star carrying these messages is Ben Platt. This is the show I predict will win the TONY for best new musical, and I am near to never drawn to make pronouncements like that. But I can’t help myself.

Evan Hansen is a lonely teen struggling to fit in and find himself in some vibrant way in the terrifying corridors of his high school and his blinkered life. He has no friends; he has tormentors and teasers and a single mom, the brilliant, big-voiced Rachel Bay Jones, loving him but working long hours and then studying to be a paralegal.

Evan is cut off from everyone. He seems to evince some symptoms of being on the autism spectrum: repetitive movements, an inability to engage with others comfortably, certain tics and motions — and Ben Platt has embodied all of this to perfection. When in the opening Evan Hansen and his mother sing “Anybody Have a Map” the shivers and tears begin.

Platt’s voice is enormous and then retreats to a tiny child’s whimper asking for help. How do I find myself, where do I go, is there a map to help me? This is what we have all asked time and time again. The mom, Heidi, also asks for a road map to rearing a very removed teenage son who wants distance and privacy more than anything, and the mom’s wild desire to connect is as painful as Evan’s is to find distance. This is the dance of this show: how to connect, how to protect and the lies and wrong steps we may take as we attempt to do this.

The show steps off when Evan writes an Atta Boy letter to himself, as per his therapist suggestions. You go Evan: You can do it, etc. The note is intercepted by the school bully Connor, who is well played with an unctuous air of threat by Mike Faist. Connor taunts Evan with the note, but in the next scene, we learn that Connor has his own lonely demons as he has committed suicide.

The rest of the play unfurls like a roller coaster ride involving Evan’s lies to Connor’s family, mom Cynthia, a wonderfully sad and silver-voiced Jennifer Laura Thompson and her stern husband Larry, who is brought to life by Michael Park and seems chiseled from a block of wood, until he melts, being the surrogate father to Evan.

Yes, it’s complicated, and the machinations continue. Evan carries a torch for Connor’s little sister, the very lithe and lovely Laura Murphy. And the fights between the rich Murphys and the aspirational working-class Hansens never seem to muddy the emotional waters that spill over the stage at the Music Box.

Add to these nuclear families two more classmates, the uber-motivated Alana, the girl who joins every club, has Excel spreadsheets for college applications and tries so darn hard and yet is still scared and lonely. Kristolyn Lloyd brings her to life.

The final character in the high school yearbook is the goad and nerd Jared Kleinman whose Cheshire cat grin, and a willingness to falsify emails to create a trail attesting to a firm friendship with Connor and Evan. Jared is played by Will Roland with a fine voice and great acting chops.

The usual landscape of teen anxiety has been ratcheted up to a new high with the advent and ubiquity of social media. Bullying and cyber warfare continue 24/7, and many children succumb to suicide because of it. The producers of the play manage to portray technology as an integral character by the inspired use of screens and scrolls projecting texts and showing how information can go viral and completely transforming what should have been small personal moments into global explosions from which it is impossible to distance oneself. This is achieved with David Korin’s set and Peter Nigrini’s swirling projections.

This work is a musical and the sounds emanating from the small orchestra and the huge voices are haunting, lilting and just glorious. The composers and lyricists work together and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul I hope are basking in their creation. Of course the synthesis for a show like “Dear Evan Hansen” comes from directorial chops and an innate sense of rhythm and cohesiveness brought by a director like Michael Greif.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is a show that makes us ponder and wonder and we may cry or cheer. We can see ourselves and our families on the stage, and certainly I hope that many teens will be in the audience to recognize as the anthem that closes act one says, “You Will Be Found.”

“Dear Evan Hansen” enjoys an extended run at the Music Box Theatre, 239 W. 45th St. in Midtown West. For information or tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit

Penny Arcade Longing Lasts Longer at St Ann’s Warehouse

Penny Arcade’s ‘Longing Lasts Longer’
by Wickham Boyle
Contributor THE EDGE
Wednesday Dec 7, 2016

Penny Arcade is a proud 66-year-old wunderkind who rocks the house, vibrates the walls and reduces audiences to tears and raucous giggles and cheers at St. Ann’s Warehouse until December 11 with her new show, Penny Arcade’s “Longing Lasts Longer.” Everyone — boomers, millennials, tweeners, tweeters, and if we could, our cats and dogs and parents — should run, limp, uber, bike or subway to see this show.

It is a mélange of a true prayer meeting, a barnstorming, a testimonial on living young for five decades and never conforming, but always observing life with a gimlet eye. Penny Arcade is a performer with whom many of us grew up. Often she was a first in the genre of “performance art.” And she never disappointed, but now she is at the top of her game and basking in Justin Townsend’s lights, which when they turn magenta just tickle her.

Arcade, whose real name is Susana Ventura, grew up in a traditional Italian immigrant family, left school when she was 13 and came to live on NYC’s Lower East Side. She performed with Wavy Gravy, was a superstar in Andy Warhol’s Factory and acted in many productions at John Vaccaro’s Playhouse of the Ridiculous before launching into her long, lauded, solo performance career.

What is refreshing and compelling about Arcade’s work is her honesty and facility with language, academic concepts, (although she is an autodidact), and her ability to thread cultural observations across the decades seamlessly and lay them at our astounded feet. She begins the show in the gleaming St Ann’s Warehouse space by roaming the audience greeting old friends, doing a bit of chit-chat here and there.

She told the audiences one night that sitting with Marina Abramovic was like sitting with a dog who had been hit by a car, and yet everyone kept saying she was so brave. No one speaks more truth to power than Penny Arcade. And whether you agree with her take on modern art, the suburbanization of our beloved New York City, the solipsism of our youth or the way technology is absorbing our lives, you do not want her to stop coming at you with the force of a hurricane.

Arcade has been collaborating with Steve Zehentner for 25 years. He is on stage with her, albeit to the side, working the sound and collaborating on the direction. Arcade on occasion stops when she gets lost in her patter and asks Steve, where she is going. They banter, he restarts the music and Arcade fiercely forges forward. There is a never a moment when you feel she is anything but genuine, and firmly rooted in the moment. And so as the audience you go with her on her every tangent, gambol, and cultural perambulation.

Arcade says that some people say she is angry, but I identified the emotions as a righteous, yes longing, for what is and was good and amazing. She takes nearly everyone to task: the tourist zombies eating their way across New York bumping into the locals because they have not been inculcated into the art of “the dip” as a way of artful avoidance of collision on the streets and sidewalks; the curse of the Princess Plague, those women tottering along on sky-high heels, arms linked because they have seen “Sex in the City”; and the SUV-sized baby carriages toting giant children through life.

Arcade is never looking to be politically correct; she is looking to be genuine and honest. “I was queer before there was a queer theory. Now we are obsessed with getting pronouns correct. This is another way of distracting us from the loss of democracy.” Arcade’s preferred pronoun, by the way, is “your majesty.” You laugh, and you think. As Arcade says, “Thinking is tough, that’s why so few people do it.”

The show skewers what Arcade calls “The Tyranny of Fragility,” continuing, “There are generations of kids who have never been slapped. Nothing takes the zing out of feeling like a genius than getting slapped.” Yes tough love, but it is certainly what many of us have thought in secret parental or teacher, or avuncular hearts.

The show is seventy-five minutes of non-stop great cogitation, amazing music, a little dancing here and there, and a room crammed with intense feeling. One can feel the wheels turning as we all conjure memories, love, lust and ire, but as Arcade advises, never nostalgia. Only longing, because longing lasts longer and we all want the glow from this show to linger.

Penny Arcade’s “Longing Lasts Longer” runs through
December 11 at St. Ann’s Warehouse, 45 Water Street in Brooklyn NY. For tickets or information, call 718-254-8779 or visit

Rapping the Moor: Othello the Remix

The Q Brothers’ Othello: The Remix
by Wickham Boyle
Contributor THE EDGE
Thursday Nov 17, 2016

GQ and Postell Pringle 

GQ and Postell Pringle   

“Hamilton” has happily released the theater world to recognize the power of modern poetry to tell a story in the rhythms of modern rhyme. The newest entry to this hip-hop pantheon is the “Q Brothers’ Othello: the Remix.” It is brought to us in association with theater wizard John Leguizamo and well worth the 80 minutes of raucous wit and wise re telling of one of Shakespeare’s darkest tragedies.

“Othello” tells the story of a general who falls in thrall with Desdemona and they elope. Her father is not pleased and so to escape some notice, Othello appoints Cassio to a more exalted position, angering his more experienced lieutenant, Iago. Iago then spins elaborate lies to turn Othello against Desdemona, who eventually kills her, leaving the stage littered with, what we now cavalierly call collateral damage.

This remix casts Othello and his posse in the music industry as competing rappers. Think of it as an all sung Shakespearian “Empire.” The intimate Westside Theatre/ Downstairs has been turned by designer Scott Adam Davis into a blaring disco with DJ Supernova spinning and scratching and neon lights flashing. It sets an energetic stage for what is to come and heated up the theater happily as the AC was somehow blasting in November.

The show is created by the Q Brothers, meaning music, words and direction. I don’t know if GQ and JQ are actual brothers, but their ability to coalesce a tale and excite an audience is impressive. Everyone in this cast is not only supremely talented, but they seem as if they are having a blast and we lucky few get to watch and clap and groan at puns and just get happily awe struck.

There is a wonderful harkening back to the original Shakespeare modality even though the words are magically modern. All the women characters — Emilia and Bianca, wives to Iago and Cassio — are played by the men. This is achieved by quickly donning wigs and sort of dickey-like dress fronts. (Huge props to costume designer Christina Leinicke.)

This works not only for comedic enhancement, but allows JQ who tackles the roles of Roderigo, Loco Vito, a record producer, hilariously obsessed with tennis, as well as Bianca, and Jackson Dorian who portrays Cassio and Emilia to show their acting wonderful chops.

Q Brother GQ plays the villain Iago and Brabantio, Desdemona’s father. He can be dark and swiftly becomes a doddering old man with wonderful precision. Desdemona is embodied only as a distant soprano voice floating occasionally though the action. A wise choice as she should not be turned into a caricature.

The lead role of Othello is embodied by Postell Pringle whose outsized character is matched with his prodigious talent. He raps; saunters and sweats bringing every nuance to a man besotted with love and brought down by the green-eyed monster of jealousy.

This work was commissioned jointly for the Globe to Globe Festival by Shakespeare’s Globe, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and premiered in Britain and Chicago before gracing the New York stage. This is the third Shakespeare to be transformed by the Q Brothers and let’s hope many people revel in this work so they can bring us more of the cannon.

The Q Brothers’ Othello: The Remix” enjoys an extended run at Westside Theatre/Downstairs, 407 W. 43 between 9th and 10th Avenue. For tickets or information, call 212-239-6200 or visit

Falsettos Rings True

by Wickham Boyle
Wednesday Nov 9, 2016

I adore Billy Finn. I have been saying this for four decades, no exaggeration. During this time I have seen every iteration of “Falsettos” from Broadway to individual songs belted and bellowed over the phone when we worked together during the launch of the Big Apple Circus. Yes, William Finn really did escape from the circus and ascended to become one of the most exalted, insightful, funny, ravaging intelligent people emboldening the American theater scene.

The newest incarnation of “Falsettos” reminds us of all Finn’s gifts and how perfectly fitted they are to his long-time collaborator, the visionary director James Lapine. I think that many of us fretted that “Falsettos” might have become a bit long in the tooth, like stalwart fans who wept and worshiped it the first time when it came in three parts: “In Trousers,” “March of the Falsettos,” and “Falsettoland,” but take heart old timers and first timers; this is marvelous.

In tribute to the writing, the music and the direction “Falsettos” is not a frozen timepiece, but a concatenation of the terror that scorched the landscape when AIDS first burst into our lives and the hope that propelled us. And it has also morphed into a work about blended families and most shocking to me, is the feminism vibrating across a stage, written in the early ’80s.

“Falsettos” has so many layers that reviewing it is part dissection, part history project, and all joy. The show begins in true Finn fashion with a rollicking number called “Four Jews in a Room Bitching,” I recall that Finn thought that might be the perfect name for his show, and thankfully cooler heads prevailed. But at the very opening, we know we are allowed to laugh at things that are usually hidden from view and unspoken. It is the razor-sharp humor that allows “Falsettos” to draw back a curtain to reveal how we create family, unity and forward motion in perilous times.

The test of a timeless work of art is whether it can move past its original quest. In the early ’80s there was the unknown killer that became the AIDS crisis. Perhaps from this disease and the activism necessary to battle a non-listening government, we grew into a more expansive society with greater equality for the LGBTQ community.

And now, on the cusp of a terrifying election, it seems many have receded into a time of hatred and repression. When we watch in a darkened theater filled with the most glorious music and words that can flip from clawing tears from your eyes to belly laughter we know that we are all lucky to be alive now.

As I watched “Falsettos” I thought of all the wonderful, bright, talented people from my life in the arts who should have been in the theater with me. I missed them; I missed my hopeful young self, but I was soothed surrounded by vibrating talent.

“Falsettos” chronicles the story of Marvin, who is married, then divorces and finally embraces being a gay man. Christian Borle, who usually has oversized comic roles, here has an emotional depth rarely seen from him. He is jubilant to finally have the life he dreamed of madly in love with another man and then losing that love to a plague. Marvin is a man boiled down to his essence and Borle is powerful in this role. Marvin’s sweet, manipulative, handsome lover is Andrew Rannells, from “Book of Mormon” and “Girls,” and here he too has a depth and range that takes our breath away.

Marvin was married to Trina; a woman who thought her life was all sewn up when Marvin rips the seams out. The incredibly talented Stephanie J. Block tackles this new world feminist role. This woman can croon, or belt or sing a song while eating a banana and spitting out the phrase, “I’m breaking down.” She is broken, and yet dinner still needs to be made, served, cleaned up and a bar mitzvah has to be planned. Luckily she gets help from the kindly shrink Mendel played with a bumbling schmaltz by the talented Brandon Uranowitz.

The kid at the center of many battles is young Jason, Anthony Rosenthal, who takes center stage, dances to the “March of the Falsettos’ or attempt to hit a baseball while the cast sings, “We’re watching Jewish boys who almost read Latin, up battin’ And battin’ bad.” He is great.

There are two other characters populating the world of “Falsettos,” and they are “the lesbians next door.” Cordelia, a caterer, played with an easy verve by Betsy Wolfe and Dr. Charlotte who is solemnly charged with dealing with the bachelors who come in scared and confused and leave later “unenlightened.” When Tracie Thoms sings “Something Bad Is Happening,” you feel the chill of that first wave of a crisis about to hit. She brings a strong presence to the role, and the ensemble is augmented for it.

My tiny misgiving is the set. It is designed by David Rockwell, also an architect of good intentions, and is composed of a series of huge soft Jenga-like blocks that can be used to create a sofa or be knocked down in anger or create baseball bleachers. All good ideas, but the time and action of moving all the pieces, assembling and reassembling often distracted me from just wanting to be at the moment with the music and the words and the mellifluous voices, and of course a wonderful, in Finn’s words, “teeny, tiny band.”

It might be evident to all, that Finn’s idol when he was at Williams College, was Stephen Sondheim; also an alum. The attention to idiosyncratic wordplay, the encyclopedic knowledge of history, music and art that flows from tightly strung lyrics and the complicated, syncopated or purely waltzing rhythms that emanate are a tribute to Sondheim and of course, are made modern and marvelous by Finn.

“Falsettos” is a show about synergy and sympathy, activism and romance and believing. It is what we all needed decades ago, and we need it even more than ever now.

“Falsettos” runs through Jan. 8. 2017 at the Lincoln Center Theater at Walter Kerr Theater, 219 West 48 Street. For information or tickets, call 800-840-9227 or visit