New plays by both August Wilson and Horton Foote, both of whom have been dead for years? The return of Sarah Jessica Parker and Betty Buckley — and Mandy Patinkin — to the stage? The first full-length play by filmmaker Ethan Coen? ” The true stories of a Supreme Court case brought by exotic dancers, and the friendship between Muhammad Ali and Stepin Fetchit?
All of this is happening Off-Broadway. And more.
How will we behave after the Apocalypse? Will we sit around the campfire recalling episodes of “The Simpsons” or will we sing and dance a la vaudeville? There is a new play this season Off-Broadway for each of these visions.
Five plays by the same playwright being presented in five different theaters simultaneously.
Twenty-nine new plays in twenty-nine nights by the same performer.
Too much more. It’s impossible to get a firm handle on Off-Broadway. This is its glory and its frustration.
Once again, I found the best way to preview the offerings is to focus on my favorite producing theaters. They have a track record that recommends any future work, and they all offer season subscriptions or memberships. Of course, there is never a guarantee, and some terrific shows pop up in unlikely places.
416 W. 42nd St. Twitter: @PHNYC
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play
August 23 – October 6, 2013
What will endure after the fall of Civilization? Perhaps “The Simpsons.” Anne Washburn’s animated exploration of how the pop culture of one era might evolve into the mythology of another
The Patron Saints of Sea Monsters
October 18 – December 1
In Marlene Meyer’s play, Aubrey, a very determined romantic, believes she’s met her soul-mate in Calvin, a boozing womanizer.
The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
November 17 – December 29
Madeleine George’s time-jumping play is dedicated to the people and machines on which we all depend. Watson: trusty sidekick to Sherlock Holmes; loyal engineer who built Bell’s first telephone; unstoppable super-computer that became reigning Jeopardy! champ; amiable techno-dweeb who, in the present day, is just looking for love.
In Spring 2014:
480 West 42nd Street. Twitter: @signaturetheatr
The Old Friends
August 20 – October 6, 2013
A world premiere of a play by Horton Foote (who died four years ago,) The Old Friends features some of my favorite stage performers, including Betty Buckley, Hallie Foote, Lois Smith, and Veanne Cox. Two Texas farming families hear alarming news, forcing old friends on opposing sides to confront the issues surrounding legacy, loyalty, and the meaning of happiness that have hounded them for generations
August 20 – September 29
Written and directed by Regina Taylor, the play focuses on the owner of Chicago’s oldest African American book publishing company who is forced to consider just how far he will go to keep his business alive.
How I Learned What I Learned
A one-man play by August Wilson performed by his frequent interpreter, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the playwright shares stories about his first few jobs, a stint in jail, an early relationship, his first kiss, his foray into cinema, and the friends he has had his entire life
Inspired by Colette’s novella about tragic forbidden love between a young man and an older woman, this work conceived, directed and choreographed by Martha Clark with a text by Tina Howe combines theater, music and dance.
425 Lafayette Street. Twitter: @PublicTheaterNY
All The Faces of the Moon
September 5 – October 3, 2013
Mike Daisey presents a new monologue every night for 29 nights, in 29 unique consecutive performances, based on the theme: the secret history of New York City.
September 10 – October 6, 2013
Created and performed by the theater company Elevator Repair Service (Gatz), the play uses verbatim transcripts to re-create the the 1991 Supreme Court case Barnes v. Glen Theatre, in which a group of exotic dancers, citing the First Amendment, challenged a ban on public nudity.
September 30 – November 3, 2013
Based on a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, directed by Sam Gold, this new musical with music by Jeanine Tesori (Caroline, or Change), presents a graphic novelist’s attempt to tell the story of her volatile father after his unexpected death.
Grasses of a Thousand Colors
October 7 – November 10, 2013
This play written by (and featuring) Wallace Shawn and directed by Andre Gregory tells the story of a doctor who believes he has solved world hunger when he figures out how to rejigger the metabolisms of animals to tolerate eating their own kind.
The Foundry Theatre’s Good Person of Szechuan
October 18 – November 24, 2013
This revival of Bertolt Brecht’s play stars Taylor Mac
The Apple Family
Scenes From Life In The Country
October 22 – December 15, 2013
The three previous plays about the Apple family written and directed by Richard Nelson will be performed in repertory, and new one, Regular Singing, will open on November 22, 2013, the 50th Anniversary of JFK’s assassination.
Under the Radar Festival January 7 – 19, 2014
Antony and Cleoptra edited and directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney (February 18 – March 23, 2014)
Father Comes Home from the Wars by Suzan-Lori Parks (March 11 – March 30, 2014)
A Second Chance, book, music and lyrics by Ted Shen (March 18 – April 13)
The Civilians’ The Great Immensity (April 8 – 27, 2014)
79 East 4th Street. Twitter: @NYTW79
Fetch Clay, Make Man
August 23 – October 13, 2013
Will Power’s play about the unlikely friendship between the heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay (as Muhammad Ali was originally named) and the controversial Hollywood star Stepin Fetchit
What’s it All About? Bacharach Reimagined
November 19, 2013 – January 5, 2014
Kyle Riabko (Spring Awakening, Hair), 25, performs his unique, soulful arrangements of the Bacharach songbook backed by an eclectic group of young performers.
In Spring 2014
Love and Information February 4 – April 6, 2014 by Caryl Churchill
Cinderella/Cendrillion by Joel Pommerat
108 East 15th Street Twitter: @VineyardTheatre
October 3 – November 10
Legendary theater composer John Kander (Chicago, Cabaret) and gifted playwright Greg Pierce’s (Slowgirl) collaborate in a musical about three thematically-connected tales of desire, love and loss. David Hyde Pierce, Julia Murney and Paul Anthony Stewart star. Walter Bobbie directs.
CLASSIC STAGE COMPANY (CSC)
The Shakespearean tragedy has shifted its casting, and now stars newcomer Julian Cihi, with Elizabeth Olsen, as well as T.R. Knight and Daphne Rubin-Vega.
September 27 – November 3, 2013
December 14 –
Mandy Patinkin and Taylor Mac star as two end-of-the-world survivors communicate through song-and-dance.
305 West 43rd Street. Twitter: @2STNYC
Little Miss Sunshine
October 15 – ?
A musical adaptation by James Lapine and William Finn of the 2006 film about the cross-country trip of a quirky family, including a father who is unsuccessful in selling his motivational success program and a young daughter who wants to win a beauty contest.
In Spring 2014:
The Happiest Song Plays Last by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Sex With Strangers
Twitter: @rpt224 also: @RattlestickNY
The Hill Town Plays
August 14-September 28
Five plays by Lucy Thurber about the life of one woman, presented in five different theaters in the West Village, as the first annual Theater: Village Festival.
October 16 – December 7
Charles Fuller (A Soldiers Play) takes an unflinching look at what has happened to women in the US Armed Forces.
How to Make Friends and then Kill Them
October 23-December 14, 2013
A play by Halley Feiffer about three long-time friends faced with change because of a horrible accident.
The Correspondent by Ken Urban (February 5 – March 23)
Ode to Joy, written and directed by Craig Lucas (February 12 – April 12)
The Few by Samuel D. Hunter (April 16 – May 31)
OTHER (POTENTIAL) HIGHLIGHTS
Here are shows that sound promising, in theaters I do not attend regularly enough to list as my favorites.
Women or Nothing: Filmmaker Ethan Coen’s first full-length play, directed by David Cromer, follows two women who are so desperate to have a child, one of them is willing to sleep with a man, August 28 – October 6, Atlantic Theater Company @AtlanticTheater
The Jacksonians: The dark comedy by Beth Henley (“Crimes of the Heart”) is set in 1964 in her hometown, Jackson, Miss. Directed by Robert Falls, the production will feature Ed Harris, Glenne Headly, Amy Madigan and Bill Pullman, Oct. 25 – Dec. 15 , The New Group @TheNewGroupNYC
The Commons of Pensacola: Blythe Danner and Sarah Jessica Parker star as a mother whose husband’s Wall Street scam became headline news, and the daughter who visits her in her straitened circumstances in Pensacola, Florida, in this playwriting debut for actress Amanda Peet. October 22 – January 12, Manhattan Theatre Club @MTC_NYC
The Bronx Bombers, Eric Simonson‘s new play about the New York Yankees, September 17 – October 19, Primary Stages @PrimaryStages
And Away We Go. A world premiere play by Terrence McNally (I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten more attention) that brings us backstage in ancient Athens; at the Globe during Shakespeare’s time; at the first reading of a new play by Chekhov; at the American premiere of Waiting for Godot, and several other important moments in theatrical history along the way. November 12 – December 15 The Pearl Theatre Company @PearlTheatreCo
Always worth checking out: Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival which focuses on avant-garde experimental and European works that are sometimes hard to categorize. One of the nearly dozen New Wave Festival entries this year is entitled Water, and described as a “theatrical reverie,” intertwining two personal dramas cast in the shadow of the struggle against climate change: “how we can reach beyond ourselves and bond, like water, with those around us?”
Several of the resident theaters offer shows in both Broadway and Off-Broadway houses – Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC), and the Roundabout Theater Company. Their Broadway offerings are listed in my Broadway Fall 2013 guide
Off-Broadway theaters, by definition, have anywhere from 99 to 499 seats. If a theater has more seats than that, it’s a Broadway house. If it has fewer, it’s Off-Off Broadway.