Politics is in the air, and it inevitably lands on the New York stage, with some half-dozen shows opening in September that one could call political theater, including an American president put on trial, and the next installment of the in-real-time Gabriel series at the Public Theater.
This also includes Lewis Black’s stand-up routine, one of two solo shows opening on Broadway this month. The other, a hit in the UK, tells the true story of a wild adventure in the Amazon (the jungle, not the website.) Off-Broadway, Judith Light is starring in a solo play by Neil LaBute. There are also biographical shows about actor Edwin Booth, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, “Queen of Race Records” Sister Rosetta Tharpe, 19th century insurrectionist Nat Turner, and one of the first women police detectives in New York. Salsa singer Tito Nieves makes his musical theater debut. And then there’s something called “Wild Women of Planet Wongo,” which sounds like an escapee from the Fringe.
Below is a selection of the plays, musicals and difficult-to-label theater pieces opening in September, organized chronologically by opening date. Each title is linked to a relevant website.
Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple, blue or black. Off Off Broadway: Green.
Twelfth Night (Shakespeare in the Park)
This Public Theater Public Works production that features some 200 performers from all five boroughs runs for just four performances.
Edwin (Great Circle Prods at Theatre at St. Clement’s)
The story of Edwin Booth, the most celebrated American actor of the 19th century, on the night of his return to the stage after his brother assassinated President Lincoln–braving death threats, public outrage, and his own scarred past.
Bliss (Black Moon Theatre Company at The Flea)
Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead; “a visual and poetic dance/theatre odyssey within the mind of an individual striving to awaken to a Higher Consciousness.”
The Wolves (Playwrights Realm at the Duke)
A play by Sarah DeLappe, making her professional debut, featuring an all-female ten-member cast as a suburban girls’ soccer team coming to terms with the world and their own changing adolescent bodies.
Maestro (59 E 59)
A solo show about Leonard Bernstein. “Conductor, composer, pianist, author, teacher, librettist, television star, and composer ofWest Side Story, Candide, and On the Town, Bernstein pushed all boundaries to become the world’s first serious musical superstar. In Maestro, Hershey Felder combines narrative with Leonard Bernstein’s composition and the music of Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler, Copland, and others, to bring to life the man the entire world knew as “Lenny.””
Aubergine (Playwrights Horizons)
A new play by Julia Cho. “A man shares a bowl of berries, and a young woman falls in love. A world away, a mother prepares a bowl of soup to keep her son from leaving home. And a son cooks a meal for his dying father to say everything that words can’t. In Julia Cho’s poignant and lyrical new play, the making of a perfect meal is an expression more precise than language, and the medium through which life gradually reveals itself.”
Black to the Future (Marquis)
(four Mondays Sept 12 – Oct 24)
Lewis Black’s political stand-up on six Monday nights when On Your Feet isn’t playing.
Marie and Rosetta (Atlantic Theater)
A drama about the “Queen of Race Records” Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who influenced Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix
Missed Connections: A Craigslist Musical (New Ohio Theater)
Based on real Craigslist Ads – “Your Personal Ads Set To Music” A hit in Canada
Dead Shot Mary (Bridge Theatre at Shetler Studios)
“A pioneer for females in law enforcement, Mary Shanley joined the NYPD in 1931, quickly becoming a Gotham all-star and tabloid sensation. Making a staggering 1,000 career arrests, she became the 4th woman in history to make detective 1st grade, and then nearly lost it all.”
Occupation: Dragonslayer (The Robert Moss Theatre)
A musical tale of 9/11 “retold for the 15th anniversary…In Christmas Eve in 2002, a mysterious stranger in fire deparmtnet garb pays a visit to a doomed diner at Ground Zero and changes the lives of all within. The musical was originally commissioned by the Public Theater
What Did You Expect (Public Theater)
The latest in the three play cycle by Richard Nelson, “The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family.” The first play in the cycle, Hungry, opened March 4, which is the date in which it is set. The cycle will culminate with the third play, Women of a Certain Age, which will be both set and open – and which the playwright will finish writing – on Election Day, November 8, 2016.
On The Rails (777 Theatre)
Three tales of different couples, set on board “a mystical, timeless locomotive”
How To Be An American (York Theatre Company)
Based on Plunkitt of Tammany Hall — A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics (a notorious book among students of American political history that introduced the concept of “honest graft.” ) “The year is 1905. One week before the next election. New York City. Tammany Hall politician George Washington Plunkitt has gathered a group of new immigrants for the purpose of educating them on the subtleties of the American political system.” Only ten performances.
Where Did We Sit on the Bus? (Ensemble Studio Theatre)
During a third grade lesson on the Civil Rights movement and Rosa Parks, a Latino boy raises his hand to ask, “Where did we sit on the bus?” and his teacher can’t answer the question. This autobiographical solo show, written and performed by Brian Quijada, examines what it means to be Latino through the eyes of a child, turned teenager, turned adult.
I Like It Like That (Puerto Rican Traveling Theater)
Salsa star Tito Nieves stars in the first musical theater role of his career, in the story of the Rodriguez family living in New York City’s East Harlem in the early 1970s, when music was the lifeline and proudest expression of El Barrio.
Nat Turner in Jerusalem (New York Theatre Workshop)
In August 1831, Nat Turner led a slave uprising that shook the conscience of the nation. Turner’s startling account of his prophecy and the insurrection was recorded and published by attorney Thomas R. Gray. NYTW 2050 Fellow Nathan Alan Davis makes his New York debut with a timely new play that imagines Turner’s final night in a jail cell in Jerusalem, Virginia, as he is revisited by Gray and they reckon with what has passed and what the dawn will bring.
Underground Railroad Game (Ars Nova)
Good morning, America! Welcome to Hanover Middle School, where a pair of teachers are getting down and dirty with today’s lesson. The nimble duo goes round after round on the mat of our nation’s history, tackling race, sex and power in this R-rated, kaleidoscopic and fearless comedy.
All The Ways To Say I Love You (MCC @ The Lucille Lortel)
Judith Light stars in this hour-long solo show by Neil LaBute about a high school English teacher and guidance counselor in a loving marriage. “As she recounts her experiences with a favored student from her past, Mrs. Johnson slowly reveals the truth that is hidden just beneath the surface details of her life.”
Verso (New World Stages)
An evening of illusion with one of the world’s premier close-up magic artists, Helder Guimarães.
Wild Women of Planet Wongo (Parkside Lounge)
An immersive, outer space comedy about two astronauts who land on a planet of beautiful warrior women who have never seen men. The show will be performed “party-style” meaning they expect audience to drink, dance and otherwise be part of the show.
The Encounter (John Golden Theater)
The Encounter is a solo show written and performed by Simon McBurney: Twenty years ago Simon McBurney was given a book written by a Romanian who escaped the Ceaușescu regime to reinvent himself as a Los Angeles screenwriter. Amazon Beaming tells the story of photographer Loren McIntyre, who in 1969 found himself lost amongst the remote people of the Javari Valley, on the border between Brazil and Peru. It was an encounter that changed his life: bringing the limits of human consciousness into startling focus.”
The Trial of an American President (Theatre Row)
Will President George W. Bush be found guilty of launching an illegal war that caused civilian deaths and spawned the growth of Al-Qaeda and ISIS and the use of brutal torture? Members of the audience are selected as the jury for this trial.