Broadway is NOT New York Theater

BroadwayisNOTNewYorkTheaterThe winners of two more annual theater awards were announced this past week — the Drama League and the Drama Desk. Some of the winners were not on Broadway. It comes as no surprise to any New York theatergoer that the most inventive, challenging and exciting theater in the city is Off or Off-Off Broadway.  The shows I saw this week involved 1. a bus, 2. a new Native-American theater troupe, 3. a theater festival presenting the problems of gay homeless youth — and directly involving actual legislators in seeking solutions. But the biggest buzz this week was generated by the opening in its new home in the  Meatpacking District of a musical based on “War and Peace” — which caused a bit of a war in itself, having nothing to do with the contents of the show, but rather the behavior of the audience. (See May 16 below.)

The Week in New York Theater

May 14, 2013

700Sundays BillyCrystal700 Sundays, Billy Crystal’s autobiographical play, returns to Broadway November 5 to January 5, 2014, at the Imperial Theater

Strange Interlude

Esteemed Broadway composer David Yazbek (The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown): “God Damn you, fucking shoe!” I just said this sentence alone in a room and now I’m tweeting it so now you know.

Jonathan Mandell:  What did the shoe do? And what would it say in its own defense?

David Yazbek: The shoe ran away from home, moved in with a dope dealer and got its lip pierced.


BloombergasSpidermanRoger Rees will star this fall in Roundabout Theater Company’s production of The Winslow Boy, 1946 Terrence Rattigan play (made into a 1999 film)

Everett Quinton stars in “Manna-Hata,” Peculiar Works Project’s site-specific play taking place at the main post office on 34th Street, about the creation of NYC, June 7-23.

Jed Bernstein, former head of the Broadway League, has been put in charge of Lincoln Center.

Scot Heller, New York Times:  Mayor Bloomberg says Bernstein persuaded him “to wear Spider-Man costume & gold disco platform boots”

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: Ah, but how hard was that?

TheRide1My review of “The Ride” – Unique Theatrical Experience?

This year Sondheim and Chekhov and Tom Hanks and Vanessa Redgrave share honors with a bus.The Drama Desk Awards nominating committee has selected “The Ride” as one of the choices in “Unique Theatrical Experience,”

Full review of The Ride

Adam Gale ‏(@ArgoTheatricals): Can you imagine if there were as many of those circling the Theater District as there are Elmos?

Expanding The African American Narrative


Before the opening night performance of Beneatha’s Place by  Center Stage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah, several playwrights held a panel discussion that was broadcast online by Howlround. Excerpts: 

Keith Josef Adkins: August Wilson and Lorraine Hansberry are great, but why just recycle their plays?

Kirsten Greenidge: There’s a myth that there’s not enough room at the table for new black plays.

Kwame Kwei-Armah: When black artists have equal access, then race becomes secondary to storytelling

We could all write 50,000-word theses,but it’s a joyous experience~composer  Tim Minchin, talking about Matilda on Charlie Rose.


My review of Wood Bones: Native American Theater in New York

“Wood Bones,” a play by William S. Yellow Robe, Jr. that marks the inaugural production of The Eagle Project, a Native American theater company in New York City, is a work that excited me – until I actually attended it.


A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, a musical comedy with Jeff Mays (I Am My Own Wife) in multiple roles, opens on Broadway November  17

“Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike,” which has won several awards and is sure to win some more, has been extended to July 28

Two new theater websites to kvell about:, from The Broadway League, from The Drama Desk


Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812

1. The Cell Phone Vigilante

NatashaCometTheater critic Kevin D. Williamson snatched the cell phone of a talker and threw it across the room, during a performance of “Natasha.” Then HE was kicked out. 

This generated a LOT of comments. One exchange between Pulitzer-winning playwright Lynn Nottage and Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout:

Lynn Nottage: Lord knows I’ve wanted to smash someone’s cell phone during a show.

Terry Teachout:  I incline more to the garrote or stun gun (depending on whether you’re seated behind or beside the user).

Lynn Nottage: Luv the idea of a stun gun to silence cell phone abusers in the theatre.

Terry Teachout ‏ One beat of stunned silence, then laughter and applause–and no ringing phones during the performance, either!

Jonathan Mandell: This is maybe excessive?

Terry Teachout: Oh, let’s not be priggish! At least she didn’t endorse my OTHER suggestion.

If Charles Bronson were alive, he’d make Death Wish VI: Cellphone Vigilantes.

2. My review of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

raved about the immersive theatrical experience that is “Natasha, Pierre and the Comet of 1912”  – a new type of dinner theater – when it was performed at Ars Nova last fall…o I am going to rave again about this musical – but add a caveat….
But let us face the fact that the complications in the story are simply not as easy, nor as interesting, to follow for those who haven’t read Tolstoy’s novel

Full review of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812


Winners of Drama League Awards: Nathan Lane; Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike; Kinky Boots; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ Pippin

The Assembled Parties has been extended (a 2nd time) to July 7. See it.

The Village Voice, home of Obies honoring theater Off and Off-Off Broadway, has fired its two chief theater reviewers, Michael Feingold  (who was chairman of the Obies!) & @mikeymusto.

Charles McNulty:  Let the #Obie judges hand out awards in an alternate ceremony — the Village Voice’s funeral


Fiona Shaw,who played Mary in “The Testament of Mary,” will perform  the Coleridge poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in December

Dame Helen Mirren and The Audience will grant an audience to The Lillian Booth Actors Home in New Jersey.



Save The Drama: Theatre of the Oppressed NYC

A cop bumped into Tamara Williams, frisked her, mocked her, then issued her a citation for resisting arrest — a traumatic incident from last summer that became a dramatic one this weekend. It was one of the scenes in Save The Drama, a show about  the problems facing LGBTQ homeless youth, the latest presentation by Theatre of the Oppressed NYC. (TONYC) In a challenging and ultimately satisfying piece of casting, Williams herself portrayed one of the harassing cops..

It is a tonic in this time of theatergoers’ Tony obsession to contemplate TONYC. How many theatergoers leave Kinky Boots aware of the Community Safety Act?

Save The Drama full article


DramaDeskAwardWinners20132013 Drama Desk Awards

The big winners of the 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards included Matilda, which won the most number of awards, five, including Outstanding Musical, and Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, which won three, including Outstanding Play, Outstanding Director of a Play, and leading actor. The other three leading actor awards went to Cicely Tyson (Trip to Bountiful), Billy Porter (Kinky Boots), and Laura Osnes (Cinderella). Other shows singled out for honors: Pippin,  Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike, and Here Lies Love — which, like “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” — is inventive, exciting…and Off-Broadway.

Complete list of 2013 Drama Desk Award nominees and winners


Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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