July 2015 Theater Openings Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway

It’s hard to come up with a comprehensive list for July — not because there are so little to see, but so much — summer theater festivals, FREE theatrical concerts like the weekly Broadway in Bryant Park, and so many Shakespeares in so many parks that they could be rechristened Pop-up Bard.

There are also plays and musicals just like you’d see the rest of the year.

Below is a list, organized chronologically by opening date in July, of a selection of Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, with descriptions. Each title is linked to a relevant website.
Nothing, of course, is guaranteed about any of these shows, even those that seem the most promising. (This is why I write reviews.) There are always surprises.
Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple. Off Off Broadway: Green.

July 3

Araberlin (Horizon Theatre Rep at 4th Street Theater)

The U.S. Premiere of a play about identity by Tunisian  Jalila BaccarWhen Mokhtar, an architecture student, disappears without a trace, his family and friends discover that he is suspected of belonging to a terrorist organization.

July 6

Sayonara (Pan Asian Repertory at Theatre Row)

Tisa Chang directs this re-imagining of a musical (adapted from a novel by James Michener) of US military in post-WWII Japan

July 7

Penn and Teller (Marquis)

The duo returns for six weeks with their familiar mix of magic and comedy.

July 8

Skippyjon Jones Snow What & the 7 Chihuahuas (Theatreworks USA at Lucille Lortel Theatre)

Adapted from the children’s book by Judy Schachner, this new FREE musical marks the 27th anniversary of free summer children’s theater from Theatreworks USA.

July 9

The Weir (Irish Rep @ DR2)

A revival of the well-received play by Conor McPherson: “In a remote country pub in Ireland, newcomer Valerie arrives and becomes spellbound by an evening of ghostly stories told by the local bachelors who drink there… Then Valerie reveals a startling story of her own.”

July 12

Bad Kid (Axis Theatre)

David Crabb’s funny and moving one-man show tells his story, that of a Goth boy who dreamed of being anywhere but the middle of Texas in 1991.

July 13

 

Ruthless (St. Luke’s)

A revival of the “campy cult favorite” about a performer with killer ambition, who is eight years old. Spoofing shows like Gypsy and movies like All About Eve, the musical boasts such alumna as  Britney Spears and Natalie Portman.

July 16

Amazing Grace (Nederlander Theatre)

A new musical starring Josh Young and Chuck Cooper about the creation of the spiritual song ‘Amazing Grace’ by John Newton, the son of a slave trader.

July 18

I Know What Boys Want (Theatre Row- Lion)

A prep school girl discovers that this week’s Internet sensation is a video of her having sex.

July 20

Mrs. Smith’s Broadway Cat-tacular! (47th Street Theater)

Mrs. Smith is a woman on the verge of a cat-based breakdown — in search of her missing cat, Carlyle. “Featuring classic Broadway hits like “Cabaret,” “One Night in Bangkok,” “The Cat That Got Away” and many more, this cat-tacular is a deftly executed character comedy with tap dancing, puppetry, video flashbacks, and virtuosic electric guitar.”

July 22

Threesome (59E59)

Leila and Rashid, Egyptian Americans with ties to Cairo, attempt to solve their relationship issues by inviting a relative stranger into their bedroom to engage in a threesome. What begins as a hilariously awkward evening soon becomes an experience fraught with secrets

July 23

Colin Quinn The New York Story (Cherry Lane Theater)

“Colin bemoans the rise and fall of his hometown, the city formally known as NY, from its modest beginnings as Dutch outpost to the hipsters of modern Williamsburg to the vermin below and above ground” Directed by Jerry Seinfeld.

July 26

Happy 50ish Musical (Theatre Row – Beckett)

“Baby boomer Bob is facing the big five-o with fear, beer and a letter from the AARP.”

July 27

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey (Westside Theatre)

James Lecesne portrays every character in a small Jersey shore town as they unravel the story of Leonard Pelkey, a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant 14 year old boy

King Liz (Second Stage Uptown)

“Sports agent Liz Rico has money and an elite client roster but a woman in a man’s industry has to fight to stay on top…Enter Freddie Luna, a high school basketball superstar with a troubled past.”

KingLiz

July 30

The Dreamer Examines His Pillow (The Attic at The Flea)

A revival of John Patrick Shanley’s play about the often bizarre byways that love between men and women can follow, told in three related scenes

Watch On Your Feet Take Shape: Director Jerry Mitchell on HIs Latest Broadway Musical [Sponsored]

Carlos E. Gonzalez and Ana Villafa in a scene from On Your Feet.

Carlos E. Gonzalez and Ana Villafane in a scene from On Your Feet.

Tony winning director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell reflects on bringing On Your Feet, the Estefan story, to Broadway.

This is the fourth in a series of 12 videos that offer a behind-the-scenes look at the new musical, which will begin performances at Broadway’s Marquis Theater on October 5, 2015, and open November 5.

The first three:

 Episode 1: Emilio and Gloria Estefan reflect on their story of love and international success.

Episode 2: Writing the Show: Book writer Alexander Dinelaris, who won an Academy Award for Birdman.

Episode 3:  Casting the Story: Auditions for the cast of 30.

Gloria Estefan has sold more than 100 million records. Emilio and Gloria Estefan together have won 26 Grammy Awards. But their music is just half the story.

On Your Feet will feature such Estefan hits as “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” “Conga,” “Get on Your Feet,” “Don’t Want to Lose You,” “1-2-3,” and “Coming Out of the Dark.” Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots) directs the cast of 30, including Josh Segarra as Emilio and Ana Villafane making her Broadway debut as Gloria,  with choreography by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and an original book by Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman)

 

Watch Jennifer Hudson Sing from The Color Purple: “Too Beautiful for Words”

Jennifer Hudson makes her Broadway debut as Shug Avery in the revival of The Color Purple, which is scheduled to open at the Bernard B. Jacobs on December 10.

The production originated at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory,and is directed and designed by John Doyle (who most recently directed The Visit.)  It also stars Cynthia Erivo and Danielle Brooks (Tasty in Orange is The New Black.)

New York Theater June 2015 Quiz

June2015quizcollageHow well were you paying attention to the New York theater news in June? Take these 13 questions and find out.

Shows for Days: Patti LuPone and Michael Urie in Fond Look at Community Theater

Shows For Days is a new play by Douglas Carter Beane, directed by Jerry Zaks. with a six-member cast including Patti LuPone and Michael Urie, based on the Beane’s fond memories of his beginnings in the theater.

Set in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1973, 14-year-old Car (Urie) joins his the Prometheus Theatre, the local community theater led by Irene (LuPone), who is director, designer and diva of all the productions.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety on Shows for Days Another play about the coming of age of an artistically inclined boy? Bor-ring. Douglas Carter Beane tries to minimize the ho-hum factor in “Shows for Days,” his own entry into that overworked sub-genre, by setting this nostalgic play in a 1970s community theater troupe ruled by a tyrannical but venerated diva played (to the hilt) by Patti Lupone. Shrewd move, but the scribe neglects to fortify his spirited star and the boychick apprentice played (sweetly) by Michael Urie with a lucid plot, a coherent structure or even believable supporting roles.

Ben Brantley, New York Times: “Shows for Days” wants to be both harshly realistic and charmingly sentimental. And these disparate sides never entirely connect….as written by Mr. Beane and as played by Ms. LuPone, Irene has a bona fide complexity that holds the attention and makes you wish that she existed in a more confident play.

Linda Winer, Newsday: How happily one indulges the messy parts, and the over-the-top effeminate eccentricities, and the anachronistic improbabilities may well be determined by a soft spot for the genre and a few other acquired tastes….Beane, whose “The Nance” explored oppressed gay life amid burlesque in 1930s New York, toys with some serious issues — including homophobia, blackmail and the pressure to do commercial hits. But, clearly, his heart is with his goofy streak here.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:A funny but frustratingly scattershot memoir…this paean to amateur theater as a life-altering career starter and a nurturing haven for outsiders needs more definition.

Jennifer Farrar, Associated Press:  quirky coming-of-age comedy… Lupone grandly tosses off one-liners as she sweeps on and off stage, draped in elegant costumes.

Adam Feldman, Time Out NY:  the uneven cast of six often seems to be rushing; important plot beats about company finances and local politics are blurry and confusing…Diverting and touching as it often is, there’s not much meat in this pottage.

Robert Kahn, NBC New York: It’s surprisingly easy to buy Urie as a teenager, and a treat to see him reunited with LuPone, who appeared as his mother on “Ugly Betty.” …I went in expecting a comedy, but by the second act the story swerves into dark drama more on a par with “The Nance.” 

Matt Windman, AM New York:  unoriginal and self-indulgent…a rambling, undeveloped, sentimental mess…LuPone essentially takes over the production with her hammy, scenery-chewing theatrics

Shows For Days
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater

Cast List:
Jordan Dean
Patti LuPone
Dale Soules
Michael Urie
Lance Coadie Williams
Zoë Winters
Production Credits:
Jerry Zaks (director)
John Lee Beatty (scenic design)
William Ivey Long (costume design)
Natasha Katz (lighting design)
Leon Rothenberg (sound design)

Other Credits:
Written by: Douglas Carter Beane

Happy Days Review: Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub Find The Droll in Beckett’s Bleakness

Happy Days The FleaIn “Happy Days,” Samuel Beckett’s bleak but compassionate 1961 play being given a witty, compelling production at The Flea, Brooke Adams as Winnie is buried in a mound of dirt, sometimes with a gun pointed at her head, while behind her, her husband Tony Shalhoub as Willie grunts, or groans, or flips through a browning newspaper, or — in a climactic moment of movement – crawls toward her.

What exactly is going on?

Some have claimed Beckett’s play as a metaphor for marriage. Others see it as a vision of totalitarian or apocalyptic times. Recent readings associate it with climate change. I myself see a look at the process of aging.

There is enough in the text to justify any of these interpretations. Who, for example, is ringing the bell that wakes Winnie up every morning, facing another day stuck in a mound? And then Winnie is sometimes worn down — “So little to say, so little to do, and the fear so great.” Yet she is also often optimistic: “That is what I find so wonderful. The way man adapts himself. To changing conditions.”

Whatever metaphor the play awakens in the audience, the appeal rests in the two performers. Adams, carefully coifed, with a lovely white smile, prattles on to the unseen Willie and is determined to keep busy, with the help of her elegant parasol and the contents of her black handbag, containing the essentials of her existence – a toothbrush, a small mirror, a pair of glasses, lipstick, a bottle of medicine, a gun. Why a gun? Pick your metaphor.

As Willie, Shalhoub has a total of maybe ten minutes of activity in the two hours of the play; this is the Winnie show. Nevertheless, he manages to be hysterical, memorable, a spot-on impersonation of a member of your family.

The production, originally presented at the Boston Court theater in Pasadena, California, is the closest we’ll get to a sunny Beckett,

Happy Days
at the Flea
By Samuel Beckett
Directed by Andrei Belgrader

TakeShi kata scenic design, tom oNtiveroS lighting design, melaNie watNiCk costume design, roBert oriol sound design, madiSoN rhoadeS prop design, miChal v. meNdelSoN stage manager, alySSa eSCalaNte production consultant

Cast: Brooke Adamas, Tony Shalhoub

Happy Days is scheduled to run through July 18

Watch 90 Seconds of Gay Pride

The day-long New York City Gay Pride Parade presented in 90 seconds in this video.

Art As Activism

In the midst of this week of momentous change, the New-York Historical Society has opened an exhibition, Art As Activism, of graphic art from the 1930s to the 1970s that promoted various causes. Notice the first poster is for a 1938 play by Langston Hughes, “Don’t  You Want To Be Free” at “Lincoln Centre” (a different Lincoln Center than the one we now know.)

“Long before digital technology made worldwide communication possible,” the curators write, ” graphic artists used the powerful tools of modernist art to inform communities, stir up audiences and call attention to injustice.” The exhibition is drawn from the Merrill C. Berman Collection, which, judging from the sample below, apparently does not include art for gay rights. So I’ve added three from a 2013 New-York Historical Society exhibition, and two from the Marriage Equality movement, which yesterday culminated in the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

Art as Activism runs through September 13, 2015.

Click on any picture to see it enlarged and read the caption.

Supreme Court Rules for Same-Sex Marriage: Full Text

The Supreme Court ruled today, by a 5 to 4 vote, that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.

The decision mentions the word “dignity” 30 times. The decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, concludes:

Anti-Proposition 8 protesters wave a rainbow flag in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.

Here is the full text of the decision, officially called OBERGEFELL ET AL. v. HODGES, DIRECTOR, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL.

from PBS

from PBS

Violence on Stage, and Responding to the Latest Mass Shooting

The mass shooting in a Charleston, S.C. church occurred on the same day that a play opened Off-Broadway featuring a mass shooting. This provoked a number of questions, which I attempt to address today in an essay for Howlround about stage violence, and ask as well in an online chat.

My essay touches on the history of theatrical violence — in the Greek tragedies, in Shakespeare — to frame a question that I then apply to currently running shows with pivotal scenes of violence: Is the violence in a play simply titillating, or does it interrogate our relationship with violence?  (Should it do both?)

Here is a selection of the questions, with answers, all edited, that we debated on the Howlround chat:

Why am I more uncomfortable watching stage violence than film violence? How do they differ? 

Eric Pfeffinger: Movie violence is often less affecting, even though more realistic, because you don’t share the same space or breathe the same air.

Why do so many of us find violence so entertaining?

J Adrian Verkouteren: I’m not sure I do. (A VERY little–or an allusion– goes a long way.)

Rick Stemm: The entertainment and excitement of balletic movement. Ever seen a really good sword fight onstage?

Stephen Near: I don’t find onstage violence entertaining. It reinforces brutality. Short + sharp = effective. Too much = overkill

Are there obvious examples of “good” stage violence vs. “bad” stage violence?

Meg Taintor: I’ve been in tiny theatres where actors brandished guns in the direction of audience

Stephen Near: I’ve almost never seen effective firearm use onstage. Gunplay is stronger when it’s implied, heard offstage or out of sight.

Hope Baugh:  I agree: Never point a gun at the audience because all it does it take them out of the story.

Eric Pfeffinger: Violence at the end of Lanford Wilson’s short play Eukiah is affecting because it’s intimate, sudden, unshowy, inevitable.

J Adrian Verkouteren: The end of Hamilton is effective and not over-the-top. The end of fun Home is more abstracted and works in that way without undue horror,

 Is there a danger state-of-the-art stagecraft + film envy will push productions to overdo violence? Is this happening? Is there a danger even in the stylized/choreographed violence on stage of adding to our culture’s desensitization?

Todd Backus thought just the opposite, paraphrasing Jhonen Vasquez:  When you suppress thoughts because of society you actually deaden a part of yourself, refuse to acknowledge your animal nature…Think back on your life to when someone wronged you. Instead of just taking it, imagine you got violent. Allow yourself to have that moment of violence in your head. Now put it away. Qllow yourself to feel these emotions. Otherwise you might actually become violent from suppressing.

Can theater serve as communal response to suffering from violence?

For example, a group of artists calling themselves Willing Participant is trying to find “an urgent poetic response” to the Charleston shootings. Is theater good at this?

Dolore Quintana: I don’t have examples, but I believe so, yes. It can also help actors/audience process suffering/fear.

J Adrian Verkouteren: Too soon. The community needs to form its own reaction to its tragedy.

Todd Backus: Do you feel like theatre must inform and cannot have a dialogue?

J Adrian Verkouteren: Dialogue need not be immediate (rushed — sometimes even exploitative).

Eric Pfeffinger: Theater’s value is limited if it’s not relevant to immediate community concerns. That said, theater’s also good at metaphor and subtext; ways to respond to violence other than dramatizing violence.

J Adrian Verkouteren: Metaphor is effective: would Shakespeare have dealt with the Charleston shootings with a play about the flag?. Rapid response is not always informed or helpful.

Todd Backus: Shakespeare’s plays, as well as the Greeks, had ties to the current events. Should Arthur Miller have waited until after McCarthyism to write The Crucible?

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