October is the busiest theater month in New York during the fall and winter, with more shows opening than there are days in the month.
Six Broadway shows are opening, heavy on star power — Clive Owen and Keira Knightley are making their Broadway debuts; Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones are returning, together — albeit light on originality. Five of the Broadway shows opening in October are revivals — plays by Pinter, Sam Shepard, D.L. Coburn, A.R. Gurney, as well as a musical that debuted Off-Broadway nearly half a century ago. The sixth is a new stage adaptation of a novel by Émile Zola.
Off-Broadway, the Public Theater has four separate new plays opening this month, all of which merit attention. And a few new works Off-Off Broadway are especially intriguing, including a new piece by the new MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellow, puppeteer Basil Twist, a musical by the indie band The Lisps, a new play starring Mamie Gummer as a damaged war veteran, and the return of an ambitious science fiction trilogy by Mac Rogers.
But you can’t know for sure until you see the show, which is why I review.
Below is a selection of the plays, musicals and “immersive” theater pieces opening in October, organized chronologically by opening date. Each title is linked to a relevant website.
Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple or Blue. Off Off Broadway: Green.
In John McManus’s play, directed by Ciarán O’Reilly, an old Irish farmer is visited by a real-estate developer who wants to convert his land into a golf course.
Fascinated by a serial killer’s poems to his victims, Nancy sets out to find him. When she discovers herself in his basement she likes it. Co-starring Laura Luna Velez, one of the cast members of Dexter.
James Macdonald directs Caryl Churchill’s political drama from 1979, set in colonial Africa during the Victorian era and in contemporary London.
Two students vie for a competitive grant from their roguish professor in a taut threesome that tests their romantic relationship and their ethics.
Clive Owen makes his Broadway debut in this Roundabout revival of Pinter’s 1971 dark comedy about a friendly visit from Deeley’s wife’s friend Anna that turns into a battle for power. Directed by Pinter specialist Douglas Hodge and co-starring Eve Best.
Puppeteer and new MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Basil Twist stages a musical ghost story: Joey Arias and Julie Atlas Mus portray the sisters who founded the Abrons Playhouse a century ago and are now back to haunt it.
Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell star in Manhattan Theatre Club’s revival of Sam Shepard’s 1983 play about a brother and sister who share an unrequited love.
In this play written by Robert O’Hara, whose Bootycandy I found outrageously entertaining, uncomfortable and profound, the O’Mallerys have gathered in their local park to share some barbecue and stage an intervention with a family member in a spiral of drugs and recklessness.
Mel Delancey’s autobiographical musical revue as the daughter of two compulsive gambler who grew up to engage in surreal Internet dating.
Kathleen Turner is directing and starring in this drama John S. Anastasi about what happens to a lesbian couple when one of the women reveals that she is grappling with her gender identity.
In what sounds like a hardly veiled allusion to Hillary Clinton, Tom Attea and Arthur Abrams have written a musical comedy about a female presidential candidate and her campaign.
Marlo Thomas stars in this comedy by Joe DiPietro about a woman who notices her husband has come home on edge after a tennis match with their son, and invites them over for drinks, getting more honesty that anyone expected.
Ugly Lies the Bone (RTC)
Newly discharged soldier Jess (Mamie Gummer) uses virtual reality video game therapy to escape her pain.
A three part sci-fi epic by Mac Rogers, following one American family through an extraterrestrial invasion and the occupation of Earth.
Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones team up for the revival of this Pulitzer-winning play about a man and a woman in a nursing home who turn a game of gin rummy into a battleground.
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) stars in the play by Danai Gurira (co-author of In the Continuum and Michonne on AMC’s “The Walking Dead”.) Amid the chaos of the Liberian Civil War, the captive wives of a rebel officer band together to form a fragile community – until the balance of their lives is upset by the arrival of a new girl. Directed by South African-born Liesl Tommy (Appropriate, Informed Consent)
In a play by Oren Safdie, Malina wants to press charges for harassment and assault against her boss in a clothing store where she works, but her boss paints a picture of an opportunist he practically had to fight off.
In a play by Topher Payne, two gay U.S. State Department employees in 1950 have been tasked with identifying “sexual deviants” within their ranks.
In White America, a play by historian Martin Duberman, traces the national journey from early colonial times through the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, with text drawn directly from historical records, including the narratives of former slaves
An adaptation of Graham Greene’s comic novel about a mild-mannered retired banker and his eccentric aunt, in which four actors play over 25 characters.
Inspired by a true story, Who’s Your Baghdaddy? is a new musical comedy, presented as a support group for the mid-level spies who started the Iraq War.
A one-act, re-imagining of ‘The Rothschilds,” a 1970, Tony-nominated musical by Sheldon Yellen, with music by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. The downsized version focuses on the relationships between the patriarch of the family, Mayer Rothschild, his wife Gutele, and their five sons
A jukebox musical featuring hit songs of the 60s,
In Abe Koogler’s first play, a mother returns from prison to a job at a slaughterhouse, which complicates her reconciliation with her 15-year-old vegetarian son.
Holland Taylor, Marylouise Burke, and Rachel Dratch. David Hyde Pierce directs
David Lindsay-Abaire’s new play about two rivals who vie for a choice room in an assisted living facility
In this “avant-Americana” musical by indie band The Lisps, Julian is a Civil War soldier dreaming of a technological utopia. Ada is a mathematical genius thousands of miles away. Together, they’re going to invent a machine to end one of the darkest periods in our history
First Daughter Suite (The Public Theater)
Michael John LaChiusa (Giant, The Wild Party) has created a musical of mothers and daughters who’ve lived in the White House: Patricia Nixon and daughters Tricia and Julie, Roselyn and Amy Carter, Betty and Susan Ford, Patti Davis and mom Nancy Reagan, and Barbara Bush and daughter-in-law Laura.
In a new play by Joe Godfrey, a wealthy Manhattan widow takes up private lessons with an alluring young Italian instructor, which makes her daughter suspicious.
First revival of the 1968 musical pokes fun at movie musicals of the 1930s. The cast of Ruby’s first Broadway show learn that their theater is being demolished, so they decide to perform on a battleship
The Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj’s one-man show chronicles his experiences growing up as a first-generation Indian-American.
In this musical, a fallen pop star lands in Hell and meets Salome, Lady Godiva, Lizzie Borden, Joan Crawford and Janis Joplin. (Janis Joplin?)
A terrific cast including Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Arian Moayed and Sarah Steele star in the latest play by Stephen Karam (Sons of the Prophet). When Erik Blake (Birney) brings his Pennsylvania family to his daughter’s Manhattan apartment to celebrate Thanksgiving, strange things start happening.
Three opinionated siblings in their 60s and their ancient childhood nanny,are thrown into a philosophical frenzy by an unexpected guest with a mysterious prediction.
Created by the Gob Squad, working for the past two years with 9-14 year olds from around New York City, this play presents seven lives lived in fast forward, from angst-ridden teens to hunched geriatrics.
Annaleigh Ashford and Julie White star in this revival of A.R. Gurney’s 1995 comedy about a man who adopts a dog (Ashford) that causes a crisis in his marriage.
In this play by Sarah Ruhl about the correspondence over thirty years between the famed correspondence between the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, a stellar rotating cast includes Cherry Jones and John Douglas Thompson
In a musical based on Chekhov’s The Seagull, fading country star Tammy returns to the Honky Tonk that launched her music career to help the son she abandoned launch his own.
A new stage adaptation of Zola’s novel. “In this tale of love, lust, betrayal, and guilt, Thérèse (Keira Knightley) has made peace with her loveless marriage to a weak man when her world is turned upside down by Laurent walking through the door