October is always a busy month for theater in New York, but it’s gone up a notch this time. Below is a selection, organized chronologically by opening date.
On Broadway alone, eight shows are opening this month, an unusually high number, and they’re widely varied: two new plays by dramatists making their Broadway debuts (including one still in school) and two new plays by Pulitzer winning playwrights; a concert by David Byrne; hip hop improv by the group co-founded by Lin-Manuel Miranda; a musical based on a young adult fantasy novel; a Tennessee Williams revival starring Marisa Tomei. And that doesn’t even include the latest edition of “Forbidden Broadway,” which encompasses all of Broadway, but will be running (as usual) Off Broadway.
Also Off-Broadway, Jonathan Groff, Tammy Blanchard, and Christian Borle are returning to New York — all in the same show, a revival of “Little Shop of Horrors.” A new musical by David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori is opening at the Public; Thomas Kail (the Hamilton director who is helming the improv show on Broadway) is directing “The Wrong Man” starring Joshua Henry at MCC; Repertorio Espanol has adapted Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer winning novel for the stage.
Given what’s happening in the news, it shouldn’t be too surprising that there are two different versions of Macbeth opening this month, plus any number of plays about politics… and politicians — Brian Cox stars as LBJ and Harvey Fierstein as Rep. Bella Abzug.
The New York International Fringe Festival, which moved last year from August to October, is in this second go-round in the new month seriously pared down to 40 shows (from the usual 200), but that’s still intimidating.
The Fringe offerings are not the only out-there shows running in October. There is an immersive version of Sondheim’s “Into The Woods” and a show at BAM with a cast of 100 that has a runtime of 24 hours.
Each title below is linked to a relevant website.
Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple, blue or black. Off Off Broadway: Green.Theater festival: Orange.Puppetry: Brown. Immersive: Magenta.
A follow-up to Robert Schenkkan’s play “All The Way, this one follows President Lyndon B. Johnson (this time starring Brian Cox) during his presidency from his election until his resignation.
In this play by Conor McPherson, John Plunkett is haunted by memories of a shameful past and shattered life. On Christmas Eve, an unexpected visit from his estranged daughter, Mary, forces John to confront his demons and grapple with his chance at redemption.
The hip-hop improv show co-founded by Lin-Manuel Miranda comes to Broadway
In Jeff Augustin’s play, Eisa wants to be the next Lauryn Hill and is struggling to break free of her sleepy New England town where she feels hopelessly trapped. Her fathers are being pulled in different directions of their own.
The New York International Fringe Festival has been pared down from its first two decades. That still leaves 40 shows, but, unlike previous years, none have been adjudicated. Following the Edinburgh model, any company could put on a show. The BYOV means Bring Your Own Venue; the idea was to present theater in all five boroughs, but only one of the six venues this year is outside Manhattan. Irondale in Brooklyn features four shows, including Savana Glacial (pictured above) a dark comedy about a love triangle written by the most celebrated living contemporary Brazilian playwrights, Jô Bilac; The Four of Us, a revival of the 2007 play by Itamar Moses (The Band’s Visit); and Update, by MAD LAB, an immersive performance-ritual using music, dance, theater, creative technology, and installation art
The Old South lives on at the MacGregor Plantation — or so it initially seems, with three interracial couples engaging in sexual gamesmanship. My review of the play Off-Broadway
Set in Wyoming a week after the deadly 2017 Charlottesville riot, the new play sees four young conservatives reunite for a backyard barbecue in Wyoming. Written by Will Arbery (“Plano”)
With book, music and lyrics by Ross Golan, direction by Thomas Kail (Hamilton), this musical is set in Reno, Nevada, and tells the story of Duran (Joshua Henry), a man just scraping by who is framed for a murder he didn’t commit,
In Tracy Letts’ play, Wheeler is a 50-year-old divorcee in the throes of a mid-life spiral. Just out of his ex-wife’s garage and into a place of his own, Wheeler starts on a path toward self-discovery—navigating blind dates, old friends, and new love.
Years after a conflict known as the Big War, a tiny kingdom wrestles with the problems of running a nation
A new musical based on the best-selling children’s book series. After everyone’s favorite frowny fishie tries to glimpse his reflection in Ms. Clam’s mystical pearl, both Pout-Pout and the pearl are suddenly swept out to sea!
Explore Wonderland on five floors of a building in “a secret location in Chelsea”
Marisa Tomei stars in a revival of Tennessee Williams’ play about Serafina, a widow, who rekindles her desire for love, lust, and life in the arms of a fiery suitor
An odd and hilarious fever dream imagining an American musical as created by theatermakers in a future dominant Chinese society, created by David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly, Yellow Face) and Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home; Violet; Caroline, or Change)
A new musical adaptation of Billy Morrissette’s 2001 film riffing on Macbeth, set in a sleepy Pennsylvania town, involving the manager of a burger joint and his ambitious wife.
Marco Antonio Rodríguez adapts the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Junot Diaz about Oscar, a naive “nerd” from New Jersey who has finally left the grips of his imposing Dominican mother and is attending his first semester of college at Rutgers with his rebellious sister. He has big dreams, but feats he won’t get them because of the “fukú”—a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Director Stephen Brackett (“A Strange Loop”) and book writer Joe Tracz bring Rick Riordan’s bestselling young-adult fantasy novel to Broadway. My review when it was Off-Broadway
After a five year absence, Gerard Alessandrini is back, roasting everything you’ve seen on Broadway since the last edition of Forbidden Broadway.
“A live laboratory for the communal work of conjuring…comprised of a set of unique scores written for each performance.” This is free with a RSVP, but you consent to being filmed. There is also a free public meal before each performance.
Mary-Louise Parker stars in this play by Adam Rapp: A brilliant Ivy League professor, a mysterious student and a troubling favor.
Seymour is a down-on-his-luck florist with a crush on his co-worker Audrey. When he discovers a mysterious – and voracious – plant, suddenly Seymour and Audrey are thrust into an epic battle that will determine the fate of the entire human race. A revival hard to argue with, given that its cast includes Jonathan Groff, Tammy Blanchard, Christian Borle
Rooftop Musical Society immersive version of Sondheim’s fractured fairytale, unfolding on two floors of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “Audience members might find themselves having a drink at the tavern with the witch (who raps!), buying some bread (or sweets) from the Baker and his wife, helping Jack sell his cow for magic beans, trying on Cinderella’s gold slipper, or flirting with royalty.”
A new horror musical using puppetry about twins bored with Halloween who are confronted by a demoness. Comic, bloody and “definitely not for young children.”
An only-at-BAM kind of show. Over a period of 24 hours, one woman and 100 men repeat the same scene 100 times, with different results. It’s inspired by Cassavetes’ meta-theatrical 1977 film Opening Night. Stay as little or as long as you want.
A stage adaptation of David Byrne’s 2018 album
Based on a true story and set in 1936, Berlin, where Jewish athlete Helene Mayer is selected for the Nazis’ Olympic Squad.
Playwright Christopher Ward imagines the stormy relationship between young American artist Mary Cassatt and great French master Edgar Degas.
In this new play by Sylvia Khoury, Yasmin, a young Syrian refugee, spends her days tethered to an electric power strip in a Greek refugee camp, discovering that she must forget everything she values in order to survive.
A revival of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow is Enough,” an unlikely Tony-nominated hit on Broadway in 1976 that Shange (who died last October) called a “choreopoem.” It tells the stories of seven black women using poetry, song, and movement.
Harvey Fierstein stars as Bella Abzug in a solo-play he’s written set in 1976, on the eve of her bid to become New York State’s first female Senator,
A play based on verbatim FBI transcripts of the interrogation of 25-year-old former Air Force linguist named Reality Winner. She surprised at her home by the FBI, interrogated, and then charged with leaking evidence of Russian interference in U.S elections. Reality remains in jail with a record-breaking sentence.
Based on Chekhov’s Three Sisters,but experimental with audience reactions to two different media. Two audiences in different BAM theaters watch the live performance of the show — one on stage, the other as a film — and then switch at intermission.
A revival of Cole Porter’s 1940’s hit, in which a brassy nightclub owner must bid for the approval of her fiancé’s family
Corey Stoll and Nadia Bowers star in Shakespeare’s tragedy.
Richard Nelson, best-known for his multi-part, low key, in real time family sagas The Apple Family plays and The Gabriels:Election Year in the Life of One Family, brings us another one. In the kitchen belonging Rose Michael, a celebrated choreographer, she and those around her cook dinner, rehearse modern dances, eat and talk — about art, death, family, dance, politics, and the state of America. The seven-member cast includes Nelson regulars Jay O. Sanders and Maryann Plunkett.
In this “brutally demented romantic comedy” by Lizzie Vieh, it’s monsoon season in Phoenix, Arizona, and recently separated couple Danny and Julia are spiraling into chaos.
Theresa Rebeck’s play about a talented by temperamental chef who scores a big mention in the press for his signature scallops, but, much to the frustration of his business partner, refuses to repeat himself for the masses. Cast includes Raul Esparza and Krysta Rodriguez
A black comedy by Cat Miller about an immigrant from Syria and a law student who goes to get her green card and gets caught into the maze of immigration hysteria.
Irish theater company Dead Centre, inspired by Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, who died at the age of 11, creates a play about a boy searching for his father