Six shows are opening on Broadway in November. And yes, one of them features a giant ape feeling unwelcome in New York City, and another marks the annual holiday stopover for a perennially touring magic act. But in a month that includes a crucial Election Day, the shows opening in New York aren’t all about (sometimes literal) escape. There are not many overtly political plays, although one opening this month is about Bobby Kennedy’s campaign for president. Yet several of the Broadway shows deal with serious issues, especially “American Son,” starring Kerry Washington. Even some puppet shows in La MaMa’s puppet festival this month focus on the refugee crisis and the killing of black men. Off-Broadway, there are an abundance of plays that touch on the struggles of African-American, Asian-
American, Native-American and/or LGBTIQ characters. Lauren Gunderson’s play “Natural Shocks,” debuting this month in a WP Theater production, was used in staged readings across the country earlier this year as a fundraiser for gun control. “All is Calm” recalls a surreally peaceful moment during a time even more divisive than our own, during World War I (a war that ended on November 11, 1918), and there is a new production of a play that Bertolt Brecht wrote as an act of resistance in Germany during World War II.
Below is a selection of openings in November, organized chronologically by opening date. Each title is linked to a relevant website for more information.
Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Black or Blue. Off Off Broadway: Green, Festival: Orange
For more information about the season in general, check out Broadway 2018-2019 Season Guide and Off Broadway Fall 2018 Preview Guide
Torch Song (Helen Hayes)
Broadway transfer of Off-Broadway revival of play by Harvey Fierstein starring Michael Urie as a gay man struggling in New York of the 1970s. My review Off-Broadway. (photo of Off-Broadway)
La MaMa Puppet Festival
This eighth festival since 2004, running Nov 1 to 25, features 28 puppet shows , as short as five minutes and no longer than 75, presented in 11 programs. Among the offerings: Food for The Gods” (pictured) is about the killing of black men; “Exodus” reflects on the current refugee crisis; “Blind” shares a first-hand experience of being disabled.
American Son (Booth)
A play by Christopher Demos-Brown, starring Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale and Jeremy Jordan, directed by Kenny Leon, that takes place in a Florida police station in the middle of the night, with a mother searching for her missing teenage son.
The Thanksgiving Play (Playwrights Horizons)
Good intentions collide with absurd assumptions in Larissa FastHorse’s satire, as a troupe of terminally “woke” teaching artists scrambles to create a pageant that somehow manages to celebrate both Turkey Day and Native American Heritage Month.
Usual Girls (Roundabout at Black Box)
In Ming Peiffer’s play, a boy threatens to tell on the girls for swearing on an elementary school playground, unless one of them kisses him. But just before lips can touch, Kyeoung tackles the boy to the ground. The victory is short-lived. Over the coming years, Kyeoung’s stories get stranger, funnier, more harrowing.
Eve’s Song (Public Theater)
In this play by Patricia Ione Lloyd directed by Jo Bonney, Deborah is trying to keep things normal at home in the aftermath of a messy divorce and a daughter coming out as queer. But as black people continue to be killed beyond their four walls, the outside finds its way in.
King Kong (Broadway Theater)
A musical adaptation of Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace’s novella about a big ape in New York City, with book by Jack Thorne the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child playwright.
Natural Shocks (WP at 2nd Stage Uptown)
A darkly comic solo show by Lauren Gunderson, the most produced female playwright in America. Pascale Armand portrays a woman forced into her basement when she finds herself in the path of a tornado.
In April, 107 theaters in 45 states presented public readings of Natural Shocks, raising more that $50,000 for charities dedicated to addressing the issues of guns in America.
Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade (Theatre at St. Clement’s)
In this solo show, David Arrow portrays Robert F. Kennedy over the last four months of his 1968 presidential campaign, including his last speech on June 4th at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
The Chinese Lady (Ma-yi)
Lloyd Suh’s play about Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to be brought to the United States, in 1834. She was put on display for the American public as “The Chinese Lady.”
Thom Pain (based on nothing) (Signature)
A solo show by Will Eno starring Michael C. Hall as man trying to save his own life…or at least make it into something worth dying for
The New One (Cort)
Written and performed by Mike Birbiglia, making his Broadway debut, about (mostly) his life as a prospective and then actual father. My review of The New One when it was Off-Broadway
Two By Friel (Irish Rep)
By the late Irish playwright Brian Friel, that is: “Lovers: Winners” (1967) and “The Yalta Game” (2001), adapted from Chekhov’s short story The Lady with the Lapdog. Both plays center on a couple in the blossoming stage of romance.
The Other Josh Cohen (Westside Theater)
A revival of the 2012 musical both written by and starring Steve Rosen and David Rossmer, based on events in Rosen’s life: Down on his luck, newly robbed and frequently rejected, he gets a surprise gift shortly before Valentine’s Day
Wild Goose Dreams (Public Theater)
In Hansol Jung’s play, directed by Leigh Silverman, Minsung is a “goose father,” a South Korean man whose wife and daughter have moved to America for a better life. Deeply lonely, he escapes onto the Internet and meets Nanhee, a young defector forced to leave her family behind in North Korea. Is connection possible?
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (Classic Stage Company)
In 1930s Chicago, mobster Arturo Ui will stop at nothing to control the cauliflower trade. Terror and bloodshed follow. Can anyone stop him? Bertolt Brecht’s skewering of Adolf Hitler and totalitarianism in a production directed by John Doyle. Written in 1941, the play was one of the Berliner Ensemble’s greatest box office successes.
The Prom (Longacre)
Four fading stars’ desperate need of a new stage leads them to protest a small-town prom that’s banning one student from bringing her girlfriend.
Downstairs (Primary Stages)
Real-life siblings Tyne Daly and Tim Daly perform together for the first time on the New York stage in Theresa Rebeck’s new play as siblings Irene and who’s staying uncomfortably in Irene’s basement, which leads to the unearthing of some troubling history. (Rebeck is also represented on Broadway this season with Bernhardt/Hamlet.)
All Is Calm (Sheen Center)
Through new arrangements of European carols and war-songs, “All Is Calm” recalls the remarkable World War I truce between Allied Forces and German soldiers in No Man’s Land on Christmas, 1914.
The Hard Problem (Lincoln Center)
In this new play by Tom Stoppard, directed by Jack O’Brien, Hilary (Adelaide Clemens) is a young psychology researcher who’s faced with a public quandary – what is consciousness – and a private sorrow.
The Illusionists (Marquis)
Return of the holiday-timed magic act. My review from 2016
The Dead, 1904 (Irish Rep at American Irish Historical Society)
For the third Christmas season in a row, Irish Rep presents its immersive adaptation of James Joyce’s novella about a holiday gathering in 1904 Dublin, staged in a historic Victorian mansion, and including dinner.