Below is a selection of the abundant New York theater openings in March, organized chronologically by opening date*. Seven shows are opening on Broadway, a jarring mix of royalty and penury, a reflection perhaps of the divide in the world at large. Three are plays, three are musicals; a seventh is sort of both, featuring Bob Dylan’s old songs in a new drama by Conor McPherson.
Update: Broadway theaters were shut down on March 12th for at least a month, in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, and remaining theaters were ordered closed three days later.
There are also exciting shows Off-Off Broadway — including new works by Greg Kotis and Taylor Mac, whose play is said to focus specifically on the cultural divide. Off Broadway, a musical by the late Michael Friedman makes its debut, along with new work by Katori Hall, Martyna Majok, Duncan Macmillan, Hilary Bettis.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, there’s the third annual On Women theater festival in Brooklyn.
And then there’s the celebration of the ban on plastic bags in New York State (which has gone into effect this month) with “The Plastic Bag Store,” free in Times Square — half art installation, half immersive theater…and one of several boundary-crossing shows with cutting-edge puppetry on stage in this busy month of March. For the times they are a-changin’
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
*For those shows that don’t have official openings, I list by first performance.
A comedy by Katori Hall (“Our Lady of Kibeho,” “The Mountaintop”) that centers around the annual “Hot Wang Festival” in Memphis, TN.
Richard Greenberg, whose “Take Me Out” is being revived on Broadway this season, tells the story of two families, whose lives have been tumultuously intertwined for decades, as they gather in the massive library of a Fifth Avenue apartment to celebrate the nuptials of their children. Nothing goes smoothly
A new play with music by the wife-and-husband team Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen (The Exonerated) is based on first-person accounts of the explosion of the Upper Big Branch mine in 2019.
The third annual three-week theater festival begins with “To Moscow! A Palimpsest” by Ada Luana and Gabriel F. (Brazil.) It continues with “Night Shadows—Or, One Hundred Million Voices Shouting” by Lynda Crawford, and two workshop presentations, “England’s Splendid Daughters” by Ann Kreitman and “The Fainting Room” by Becca Bernard.
Written and directed by Conor McPherson, using songs that Bob Dylan wrote between 1963 and 2012, this play with music is set in 1934 at a guesthouse in Duluth, Minnesota (Dylan’s birthplace.) A group of travelers pass in and out of each other’s lives, and share stories that awaken each other with passion, fury and, beauty. This originated at the Public Theater. My review Off-Broadway.
An unhinged computer chip engineer threatens to destroy the world. What’s most noteworthy about this production is that it’s written by Greg Kotis, the Tony-winning author of arguably the most successful Off-Off Broadway show ever, “Urinetown.”
A new solo piece by puppeteer performance artist Karlan Sherrard with a powerful environmental message.
In this musical co-written by the late and much missed Michael Friedman, a woman sets out on a journey to unearth the secrets of her family’s past when she discovers in her grandmother’s home a mysterious photograph of an anonymous soldier, tucked away in a box of keepsakes.
Seventy-two miles. That’s the space between a recently deported mother in Nogales, Mexico and her husband and children in Tucson, Arizona. Written by Hilary Bettis, who was a writer for the FX series “The Americans”
Freely inspired by the novel Oedipus on the Road by Henry Bauchau, Anywhere evokes the long wandering of Oedipus accompanied by his daughter Antigone. The fallen Oedipus appears in the form of an ice puppet that gradually turns into water then into mist and disappears in the Erynian Forest
Pop-concert musical featuring the six wives of Henry VIII.
“Audiences will be welcomed to Illyria…This romantic comedy will explore themes of wealth and class, identity and disguise, and love and loss. Our production will allow participants to directly engage with these themes with a high level of agency.”
Letts’ most political work to date is a dark comedy about a town council meeting in the fictional town of Big Cherry that turns ominous.
The Fre (The Flea)
The Fre is written by Taylor Mac, and directed by The Flea’s artistic director Niegel Smith, his collaborator on “Hir” and “24 Decade History of Popular Music” and that makes this show a must-see no matter how weird or uncomfortable it winds up being. “In this queer love story, audiences will literally and figuratively jump into the mud with the Fre to hash out the current cultural divide.”
A new adaptation of the Henry James novel written and directed by Randy Sharp. (A previous adaptation is “The Heiress”)
The Plastic Bag Store, a public art installation and immersive theater piece by artist and director Robin Frohardt explores the enduring effects of plastics. The “store” is stocked with thousands of original, hand-sculpted items — produce and meat, dry goods and toiletries, cakes and sushi rolls — all made from discarded plastics. At night, the store transforms into an immersive, dynamic set for free performances where “hidden worlds and inventive puppetry tell the darkly comedic, sometimes tender story of how the overabundance of plastic waste we leave behind might be misinterpreted by future generations.” Free and open to the public.
A dark comedy by Martin McDonagh about a retired executioner who now presides over a pub, visited by a mysterious gentleman. My review Off-Broadway
In this rendition of the classic pirate story, 12 puppeteers animate marionettes to tell the swashbuckling adventures of cabin boy Jim Hawkins.
Claudia Rankine explores how white men think about their privilege and navigates questions of race in order to provoke dialogue around what it means for a life to matter in America today
In Melisa Tien’s play, a woman of color can rewind time, but only within the last five minutes. The result: her exchange with a white woman in a cafe becomes increasingly alarming
Starring Patti LuPone and Katrina Lenk, this fifth Broadway production of the Stephen Sondheim/George Furth musical about a single 35-year-old with married friends, this one is “re-gendered” so that the protagonist is now a woman, Bobbie.
An opera based on Lynn Nottage’s play about the life and loves of Esther, a lonely, single African-American woman in early 20th century New York who makes her living sewing beautiful corsets and ladies’ undergarments.
Much anticipated (and much delayed) play by Martyna Majak, who was the 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner for Cost of Living, about two teenagers, life-long friends, in post-9/11 America.
Claire Foy and Matt Smith (who played Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the first season of “The Crown”) reunite in this look at love in the time of climate change,
written by Duncan Macmillan (People, Places & Things)
The history of the rise and fall of the Lehman Brothers over 164 years, starting with the arrival of the three Lehman brothers from Bavaria in the mid nineteenth century. My review of The Lehman Trilogy when it was at Park Avenue Armory in April.
A large scale musical work by Heather Christian, staged by director Lee Sunday Evans and featuring eighteen virtuosic singers and instrumentalists.
Jeanna de Waal portrays Princess Diana in this musical, with Roe Hartrampf as Prince Charles,Erin Davie as Camilla Parker Bowles, Judy Kaye as Queen Elizabeth