May is a month when Broadway is on the brain, but not on the stage. Theatergoers focus on the Tonys and many other theater awards, but there are more than a dozen Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway shows opening this month.
Below is a schedule of May theater openings organized chronologically by opening date. Each show title is linked to a relevant website.
Color key: Broadway: Red. (none this month) Off Broadway: Purple, blue or black. Off Off Broadway: Green.
Inspired by a true story, Baghdaddy? is a new musical comedy, presented as a support group for the mid-level spies who started the Iraq War.
It has mercifully shortened its title since the time I saw the 2015 production (“Who’s Your Baghdaddy, or How I Started the Iraq War.”)
An abandoned ski shop becomes the center of the universe. A group of urbanites finds itself stuck in a flood-damaged building with a makeshift skate ramp, dead birds, and the tattered banner of a final blowout sale. From these clues they ritualistically reanimate a bygone world of Ski, until they incite a cosmic force
George Takei stars in a revival of the musical by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman about a samurai and a fisherman who are caught up in the westernization of the East, at a time when Commodore Matthew Perry sailed to Japan on a U.S. mission to open trade relations at any cost.
A new musical. “On a block in the East Village where graffiti comes to life, mannequins dance, and angels sing, big-dreaming cook Harry and frustrated real estate agent Sherri meet — and sparks fly.”
The Yale Rep’s production of Beckett’s play, starring Dianne Wiest
A musical about a sleep-deprived single mom who struggles to work as a video game music composer. Unexpectedly, she is contacted across time by the famous polar explorer, Ernest Shackleton. Inspired by her music, he shares his epic Antarctic journey with her in video and song
Arlington (St. Ann’s Warehouse)
A “strange and tender love story” written and directed by Enda Walsh (best-known in New York for Once and Lazarus.) “Isla waits in a waiting room in a tower as a man watches her, documents her every move and pulls her dreams from her.”
This play by Martin Zimmerman tells the story of a doctor of a war-torn and plague-ravaged village who discovers that his touch can cure the plague. A meditation on mourning, redemption, and revenge.
A revival of Suzan-Lori Parks’ play based on the true story of Saartjie Baartman, who left her home in southern Africa for a better life, and became a star on the 19th century London freak show circuit for the size of her posterior.
Performed in repertory, these two chapters of Mfoniso Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle, chronicle the triumphs and losses of the tenacious matriarch of a Nigerian family. Directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar. Here’s my review of Soujourners when it was produced by Playwrights Realms, in which I write “Given the promise of such an ambitious and potentially exciting project, one makes allowances for some of the awkwardness of this first production, which would have been more effective with a clearer and more streamlined unfolding of the essential story…”
Mind-reading, suggestion and psychological illusion at the hands of UK’s Derren Brown.
The play stars Arian Moayed (The Humans, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo), and is accompanied by an original score. “Set in Persia a hundred years ago, on the eve of World War I, Waterwell’s Hamlet weaves passages of Farsi translation into the English of Shakespeare’s masterpiece of crisis and identity. In it, a traditional way of life is being threatened by an evolving world, the land is being threatened by encroaching foreign interests, and a young man finds himself uprooted and torn between opposing customs, values and codes.”
A play by Pulitzer winner Robert Schenkkan (The Kentucky Cycle, All The Way, the movie Hacksaw Ridge) says of his anti-Trump play: “I wrote this in a white-hot fury. We no longer live in a world that is business as usual — Trump has made that very clear —and if theater is going to remain relevant,we must become faster to respond. We cannot hope to be useful if we can’t respond until 18 months after the fact. It is not a crazy or extreme fantasy. It’s very solidly grounded in current American law, and Trump’s rhetoric, and his most recent executive orders.”
Written by Hamish Linklater and featuring a cast that includes Norbert Leo Butz, Zosia Mamet and Jonny Orsini. When, after much time away, Kristina is back in Berkshire County, word spreads fast that she and her ex-husband are caring for their estranged, ailing daughter Julie. Broken-hearted and giddy with love and confusion, surprising visitors from Julie’s complicated past practically trip over each other to reach the young woman they thought they’d lost years before
A play by Gina Gionfriddo (Becky Shaw; Rapture, Blister, Burn) about Miranda, drowning in debt and on the run from a date threatening to kill her, who is offered a safe haven by a couple on Halloween night. “But is the promise of a better life a treat or a trick?”
A new musical of a modern-day love story set in rural Afghanistan.