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This Week on Stage: Cillian Murphy, Dule Hill, and Alicia Keys in New York

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STICK FLY
Richard Termine

The boards were busy this week. Big stars like Cillian Murphy (Inception) and Mekhi Phifer (ER) made their New York stage debuts. The Off Broadway musical adaptation of the Oscar-winning indie movie Once announced its move to Broadway just hours before its opening night performance. And we caught up with Cirque du Soleil’s dance-heavy Michael Jackson tribute show in Las Vegas. Read the highlights below:

Misterman: I give this one-man show, written by Irish playwright Enda Walsh and starring Cillian Murphy as a man ostracized from his Irish village, an A-, calling it “the perfect pairing of unorthodox playwright and fearless actor” and noting that “I’ve never seen an actor tear up as convincingly as Murphy.”

Once: Misterman scribe Walsh also penned the book to this Broadway-bound stage version of the Oscar-winning 2006 Irish film Once, which earns a B from correspondent Keith Staskiewicz, who criticizes its “cornball elements” but admits that “the production’s sheer energy makes up for much of the soppiness.”

Neighbourhood Watch: Critic Melissa Rose Bernardo gives an A- to Alan Aykbourn’s 75th play—an Off Broadway comedy about a middle-class housing development gone bad—describing it as a “superbly crafted suburban-herd-mentality satire.”

Stick Fly: The Alicia Keys-produced domestic drama, featuring Mekhi Phifer and Dulé Hill as brothers on a tense visit to their parents’ Martha’s Vineyard vacation house, scores a B- from stage editor Thom Geier. “It hints at a family drama worthy of August Wilson or Lorraine Hansberry,” he writes. “But too often it settles for raised voices and shocking twists — and the gasps and clucks that they’ll elicit from the audience.”

The Cherry Orchard: Critic Lisa Schwarzbaum calls the final installment of Classic Stage Company’s Off Broadway Chekhov cycle, starring Dianne Wiest and John Turturro, “as scattered as downed leaves.” She gives the show a B, writing that the production is “more interesting in its bits and pieces of staging and acting than affecting in its evocation of social change.”

Happy Hour: Filmmaker-playwright Ethan Coen’s new trio of darkly comic short plays earns a B from staff writer Adam Markowitz. “His characters jump to life from their first words,” writes Markowitz about Coen’s Off Broadway show. “But parts of his triptych have a dashed-off feel, like sketches for a fuller piece: a clever idea here, a great line of dialogue there. The plots meander and fall off cliffs.”

Maple and Vine: A couple decides to give up modern life and live like it’s 1955 in this Off Broadway comedy that writer Stephan Lee grades a B and calls “inventive,” and “full of fresh humor,” with “cracking dialogue” and “fully-committed performances.”

Michael Jackson the Immortal World Tour: Staff writer Tanner Stransky believes that “even the most casual of Jackson followers will be entertained, and Jackson acolytes will revel in every glittering, peculiar moment” of the Canadian performance troupe’s touring arena-scale tribute to the King of Pop, which recently began its U.S. tour. He gives the production a B.