Below is a selection of New York theater openings in January, organized chronologically by opening date.* Three shows are opening on Broadway this month — Laura Linney in “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood in “A Soldier’s Play,” Jane Alexander and James Cromwell in “Grand Horizons.” There are also a handful of exciting shows Off-Broadway — Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale in a modern update of a Greek tragedy; Charles Busch in his lastest comic melodrama. What makes January one of the busiest months of the year for theater in New York are the annual January theater festivals.
Although several of these festivals have died recently, those that remain offer collectively more than 70 theater pieces; most are experimental, often hybrids that redefine what theater is, and are often difficult to describe; many run for as little as one or two performances.
The festivals seem to set the tone for some of the non-festival works this month. When else but in January would there be two adaptations of Medea, and a trio of plays from New Zealand?
Each title below is linked to a relevant website. Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Black or Blue.. Off Off Broadway: Green. Theater festival: Orange. Immersive: Magenta. Puppetry-Brown
*The festival shows and many Off-Off Broadway don’t have official opening nights, so they are listed according to their first performance.
The festival begins with “Fear in the Western World” (Target Margin)
Digital puppetry that examines the apparatus of fear by telling the story of a young couple whose young daughter is attacked and kidnapped by spirits
In fragmentary scenes with four actors moving through many voices, the piece draws on recent transcripts of Supreme Court justices wrestling with how to police the borders of citizenship in order to deny rights that ought to be inalienable.
In this first of three plays from New Zealand this month at Soho Playhouse this stage adaptation of the poetry of Tusiata Avia examines and celebrates what it means to be a Samoan woman
The Astronaut School has four students—but only one can actually make it to outer space.
Part theater piece, part dance show, part haute couture runway and part art installation, this adaptation of Euripides’ play presents the title character as a woman who was stripped of voice and homeland, who sacrificed her heart to put a man’s heroic epic before her own, but will stay in the shadows no more.
Kafka’s A Hunger Artist (Connelly Theater)
A man sits alone in a cage, starving himself for your entertainment in this solo show adaptation of Franz Kafka’s short story, which uses physical theater, Victorian miniatures, puppetry, and a set of simple props.
A year after the death of their father, an Irish family argues over the suspicious circumstances surrounding his demise, while outside the people of Ireland are equally divided as they prepare to vote on whether to repeal the eighth amendment and legalize abortion i
Under The Radar Festival through January 19
The festival begins with six shows (listed in order of what time they begin today):
A virtual reality experience created by Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang. During the 15-minute experience, the viewer is shot out from Earth, walks on the surface of the Moon, glides through space debris, flies through DNA skeletons, and is lifted up a lunar mountain.
A memoir full of show tunes whimsically recalling the “Haddad Theater” he ran as a child.
The story of a public meeting, whose topics include “the ethics of mass food production, human rights, the social impact of automation and the projected dominance of artificial intelligence in the world.”
A play by Palestine’s leading playwright/director, Amir Nizar Zuabi in which a Palestinian man dreams of reaching the moon, building a rocket inside his shed in the West Bank.
Ahamefule J. Oluo’s darkly comic musical portrait of his mother builds one story out of many, a journey from Section 8 housing in 1980s Seattle, to the mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta, to the Clallam Bay Correctional Facility.
Casting herself in all the main roles, McCormick will attempt to re-connect to her own moral conscience by re-enacting the New Testament via a Nu-wave holy trinity of dance, power ballads, and performance.
In a near-future America after a civil war has left the country reeling, three women one by one get on a pedestal and tell the story of their struggles.
Prototype Festival through January 19
The festival begins with Blood Moon (Baruch), an opera-theatre piece with puppetry and a Taiko-infused score, in which three characters encounter the past on the night of a full moon: a nephew who returns to the mountain-top where he left his aunt to die forty years earlier, the ghost of the aunt he abandoned, and the moon that presides over this night of reckoning.
In this second of three shows from New Zealand this month, the group sings songs and tells stories.
Inflatable rafts on the Mediterranean. Dark holds of cargo trucks. Family photos hidden carefully in a backpack. Hear the stories of young refugees in this multimedia theatrical work for ages 10 and up;
A rock opera by Jeremy Schonfeld that weaves together his personal experiences with excerpts from his father, an Auschwitz survivor, brought to life through animation, a rock band, an orchestra, and 200-member multigenerational choruses.
In the last of the three plays from New Zealand, this verbatim work is based on interviews with six rangatahi (Maori youth.)
Japanese collagist, animator, and puppeteer, Maiko Kikuchi, mixes mediums in this solo show, inviting us to the whimsical nexus of her surreal series of daydreams.
In this solo play adapted from the best-selling novel by Elizabeth Strout, Laura Linney stars as Lucy Barton, a woman who wakes after an operation to find – much to her surprise – her mother at the foot of her bed. They haven’t seen each other in years.
Miss America’s Ugly Daughter (Marjorie Deane Little Theater)
Barra Grant explores her life growing up in the shadow of her mother Bess Myerson, the first and only Jewish Miss America.
A musical that is set inside a smart phone, with the resident emojis facing a “textistential” crisis — the phone is due for a software update. That’s in the first act. In the second act, they face a virus.
My review of Emojiland when it was part of the New York Musical Festival
The Pulitzer Prize-winning mystery about the murder of a black sergeant on a Louisiana army base in 1944 comes to Broadway for the first time, starring David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood.
Emmie is one of the only black people living in Paris, Vermont, and she desperately needs a job. When she is hired at Berry’s, a store off the interstate selling everything from baby carrots to lawnmowers, she begins to understand a new kind of isolation.
In this new play by Bess Wohl, James Cromwell and Jane Alexander portray Bill and Nancy, who have spent 50 years as husband and wife. But just as they settle comfortably into their new home in Grand Horizons, the unthinkable happens: Nancy suddenly wants out. As their two adult sons struggle to cope with the shocking news, they are forced to question everything they assumed about the people they thought they knew best.
The Transfiguration of Benjamin Banneker (La MaMa)
Conceived, designed and directed by pioneering puppet artist Theodora Skipitares, this multi-disciplinary spectacle and community engagement project celebrates the life of Benjamin Banneker, a free black man living in Maryland from 1731 to 1806, who had a passion for the stars, taught himself mathematics and astronomy, and made important scientific discoveries. The play time-travels forward to the 1960’s, and illuminates the life of Ed Dwight, the first black astronaut.
Fire This Time Festival through February 2
seven ten-minute plays by writers of African descent.
A nod to Wagner’s Ring Cycle merged with a comedic Texas fable, the songbook ranges from Broadway to Texas swing, from jazz to twangy country and western as mismatched lovers meet on the day of their double shotgun wedding with five actors playing more than 30 characters. It takes place at the Hill Country Barbecue Market, which is a restaurant and nightclub in the Flatiron District.
Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale star in writer-director Simon Stone’s rewrite of the Euripides tragedy.
The Confession of Lily Dare (Primary Stages at Cherry Lane)
The latest comic melodrama written by and starring Charles Busch tells the story of one woman’s tumultuous passage from convent girl to glittering cabaret chanteuse to infamous madame of a string of brothels.
A brother reluctantly holds a reunion with his developmentally disabled sister who has become an extraordinary artist. When he discovers his sister’s guardian, a nun, is a woman he knew from his past, the three are all thrown into an emotionally charged encounter that leaves them forever changed.
Nellie and the Women of Blackwell (Wildrence)
An immersive visit to the Blackwell asylum of the 1880s, where undercover journalist Nellie Blye exposed the mistreatment of women in the institution. The audience will move from room to room and interact with the characters.
Inspired by the adventure novel “Watership Down,” this multimedia puppet play follows one peculiar rodent on his journey to discover the interconnectedness of life