Jeremy Daniel
Aubry D'Arminio
November 27, 2011 AT 03:32 PM EST

Three of Broadway’s best—Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin and Alan Rickman—returned to the Main Stem this week, but don’t be too thankful, because the results are varied.

EW film critic Lisa Schwarzbaum gives Rickman’s writing-themed Seminar (pictured) a C+, calling it a “synthetic, audience-stroking comedy,” and adding that it “has little of depth or authenticity to say about the struggle to put words in order.” She does, however, praise actor Hamish Linklater, who makes his Broadway debut in the play. “In the end, Seminar belongs to Hamish Linklater,” she writes. “The actor does such a good job of creating, sustaining, and quietly intensifying [his character’s] full personality.”

On the other hand, An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin is “two hours of good old-fashioned musical theater” according to critic Melissa Rose Bernardo. “The greatest of the greatest hits are here,” says Bernardo, giving the play an A-.  Patinkin’s ‘Oh What a Circus’ “reminds us what Ricky Martin’s up against in this spring’s Evita revival” and LuPone’s ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ has “powerhouse vocals….She gets a standing ovation simply by slowly raising her arms in the now-famous Evita-on-the-balcony pose.”

Off-Broadway had similar up-and-downs this week. The Cold War drama Blood and Gifts earns an A from stage editor Thom Geier, who praises playwright J.T Rogers. “He takes a subject that seems like the stuff of PBS or dry policy papers—Afghanistan in the 1980s,” writes Geier, “and crafts a smart, intellectually stimulating, and just-plain entertaining spy thriller.” On the other hand, while there are “some interesting ideas at work” in Thomas Higgins’ C+ boyhood drama Wild Animals You Should Know, Geier warns “none of the characters seem fully fleshed out in Higgins’ engaging but overly schematic plot.”

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