Bob Dylan, Glenn Close, Daniel Radcliffe, and Gloria Steinem are all on a New York stage one way or another in October, always a good month for theater.
This year’s October is likely the busiest ever, thanks to the addition of the hundred shows in the New York International Fringe Festival, which for the first time has been moved from August to October.
Three shows are opening on Broadway in October: Elaine May returns to Broadway in a star-studded revival of Kenneth Lonergan’s “The Waverly Gallery”; Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale star in “Lifespan of a Fact,” a true story that starts with one of our society’s unheralded heroes – a fact checker. Jez Butterworth’s “The Ferryman” is one of the several plays that month about a stranger who visits…and turns everything
Off-Broadway’s promising shows include a re-imagined “Oklahoma”; an evening of Beckett performed by Bill Irwin; and a new Bob Dylan musical with a book by Conor McPherson. Glenn Close stars as Joan of Arc’s mother. Christine Lahti portrays Gloria Steinem.
Off-Off Broadway, filmmaker Todd Solondz makes his theatrical debut, and two plays by Samuel D. Hunter are joined together into a dinner theater, New York style.
Below is a selection of openings in October, organized chronologically by opening date. Each title is linked to a relevant website.
Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Black or Blue. Off Off Broadway: Green. Theater festival: Orange
Girl from the North Country (Public Theater)
Playwright and director Conor McPherson transforms Bob Dylan’s songbook to tell the story of a down-on-its-luck community on the brink of change in Duluth, Minnesota in 1934.
Final Follies (Primary Stages at Cherry Lane)
Three one-act plays by A.R. Gurney, who died last year at the age of 86.
Bill Irwin explores his relationship with the work of Samuel Beckett through excerpts of his texts including “Waiting for Godot,” “Endgame,” and “Texts for Nothing.”
The Bachae (BAM)
Euripides’ cautionary parable of hubris and fear of the unknown thrashes to new life in the hands of Anne Bogart, the renowned SITI Company.
Makbet, a version of Shakespeare’s tragedy presented by the Dzieci international experimental theatre ensemble, takes place inside a shipping container in Sure We Can, a Brooklyn recycling center. It’s one of the first shows in the monthlong New York Fringe Festival.
Oklahoma (St Ann’s Warehouse)
Director Daniel Fish’s 75th anniversary production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s landmark musical upends the sunny romance between a farmer and a cowpoke with what has always been just below the surface. The cast includes Rebecca Naomi Jones, Mary Testa, and Ali Stroker.
Black Light (Greenwich House Theater)
Jomama Jones, portrayed by Daniel Alexander Jones, returns in the cabaret show that’s an act of healing and an act of warning in these turbulent times. My review when it was at Joe’s Pub.
Midnight at the Never Get (York)
a gay New York couple in 1965 put together a show at an illegal Greenwich Village gay bar. But as the decade ends, they find themselves caught in a passion they can’t control and a political revolution they don’t understand.
Their lives are irrevocably changed when a stranger visits the members of a community untouched by the civil rights movement, forcing them to take sides and take a stand.
FringeNYC opens in earnest with performances by 23 of its 83 shows, including The Resistible Rise of JR Brinkley, the true story of a 1920s con man who became a successful politician.
Duke Oldrich & Washerwoman Bozena (Czech American Marionette Theatre)
non-traditional staging of a 374 year-old marionette play based on the story of love at first sight of the 11th century Duke Oldrich, who married a washerman. Part of the Centennial Heritage Festival
The Things That Were There (Bushwick Starr)
Written by David Greenspan and directed by Lee Sunday Evans, the play dramatizes the events and relationships of a family over many years at a family get-together. “Certain scenes begin again with slight or significant variation as a means of investigating family relationships through a continually shifting lens a
Emma and Max (The Flea)
Filmmaker Todd Solondz (“Welcome to the Dollhouse,” “Wiener-Dog”) makes his theatrical debut with a play about privilege, race, and the intersection of black and white.
Written by Donja R. Love, starring Kris Davis (magnificent in Sweat and The Royale, now on FX’s Atlanta.) When four little girls are bombed in a church, the marriage between Charles (Davis) and Olivia (Dewanda Wise) is threatened
Rags Parkland Sings The Songs Of The Future.(Ars Nova)
Sci-fi folk concert set 250 years in the future. “Rags will play the revolutionary songbook that carried us to where we are today
Stockard Channing in a powerhouse performance as a woman facing the repercussions of her past, in this play by Alexi Kaye Campbell
Mother of the Maid (Public)
Glenn Close plays Joan of Arc’s mother in this drama by Jane Anderson (“Olive Kitteridge”)
Christine Lahti portrays Gloria Steinem in a new play by Emily Mann directed by Diane Paulus.
The Lifespan of a Fact (Studio 54)
Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale in a true story that begins with an essay written about a Las Vegas teenager who committed suicide. But the fact-checker assigned to make sure the piece is accurate begins to wonder whether any of it is true
The Ferryman (Bernard Jacobs)
Written by Jez Butterworth and directed by Sam Mendes, this play is set in the Carney farmhouse in rural Northern Ireland in 1981, a hive of activity with preparations for the annual harvest…until a stranger visits.
The Book of Merman (St Luke’s Theater)
Two Mormon missionaries ring the doorbell of Ethel Merman in this new musical comedy. Carol Sakolove sings original songs as Merman.
School Girls or the African Mean Girls Play (MCC)
A return of the play about the catty girls at Ghana’s most exclusive boarding school who vie to enter the Miss Universe pageant.My review of the original production.
Plot Points in Our Sexual Development (Lincoln Center)
In this play by Miranda Rose Hall, Theo (Jax Jackson) and Cecily (Marianne Rendon) want to be honest about their sexual histories, but what happens when telling the truth jeopardizes everything?
Happy Birthday Wanda June (Wheelhouse at Duke)
A revival of Kurt Vonnegut’s satire about a big game hunter who returns to America after an eight-year absence to find it trying to address the culture’s toxic masculinity
India Pale Ale (MTC)
In this play by Jaclyn Backhaus, a tight-knit Punjabi community in a small Wisconsin town gathers to celebrate the wedding of a traditional family’s only son, just as their strong-willed daughter announces her plans to move away and open a bar. This comedy of generations clashing was the recipient of the 2018 Horton Foote Prize for Promising New American Play.
After watching an excerpt of “Julius Caesar” on television, a 14-year Filipino boy locks himself in the only family bathroom to dive head-first into the world of ancient Rome, determined to make sense of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, eventually joined by the boy’s father, a former town mayor now exiled because of his democratic beliefs.
Written by Kenneth Lonerganand directed by Lila Neugebauer, making her Broadway debut, and starring Elaine May as Gladys, whose world is being rearranged both within her own mind, and externally – the landlord wants to turn her small Greenwich Village gallery into a coffee shop. It co-stars Lucas Hedges, Joan Allen, Michael Cera, and David Cromer.
Samuel D. Hunter’s two plays focus on two modern-day descendants of the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Each night “the plays will be performed together, in an intimate space for a small audience of only 51 guests who will gather to watch, to share a catered meal between the two productions, and to consider as a community our place in the ongoing American experiment.”
The biography of radical poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay, using her poetry as lyrics.
A turn of events puts the perfect life of a gay couple in jeopardy, This production of a play by Michael McKeever had a run last year at Primary Stages. My review
Steven Levenson (who wrote the book for Dear Evan Hansen) writes about five young idealists in the middle of a country divided, in October, 1969, who admit a mysterious newcomer to their collective, and the delicate balance they’ve achieved begins to topple. It stars Mike Faist (late of Dear Evan Hansen), Tavi Gevinson, J. Alphonse Nicholson