May 2021 Theater Openings, Week 1: John Leguizamo, Ethan Hawke in Beckett. Céline Dion Sinking. Gabourey Sidibe at Billie Holiday.Sierra Boggess at the Secret Garden.

Cast of Waiting for Godot, starting May 6

Below is a day-by-day selection of theater* – both online and in person! — that is opening between May 1 and May 7: a starry Waiting for Godot, musical celebrations of the lives of actress Rebecca Luker and composer Adam Schlesinger, the fifth annual 50in50 – 50 monologues written and performed by Black women – and the launch of a free new series that brings back neglected Black plays going back more than a century

the playwrights of th Roundabout Refocus Project

And that’s all just in the first week!

May is usually the month that theatergoers debate nominations and await awards, but there’s been nothing usual for the past year, and this month promises an overload of offerings. There’s a catch: Many shows are put together at the last minute. So, like many of the shows, this calendar is a work in progress.

Saturday, May 1

The Iron Heel, Episode 1
Untitled Theater Company No. 61 
3 p.m.
The first of a three-part audio drama podcast adapted by Edward Einhorn from the 1908 dystopian novel by Jack London, (My review of the 2016 stage play)

Blessed Unrest at Madison Square Park
7 p.m. available also May 2,8,9
Follow performers through fractured journeys of forbidden touch set against the beautiful canopy of Madison Square Park. Touch is being performed outdoors as part of the NYC Open Culture Program.

We Have to Hurry
Broadway on Demand
8 p.m.
Kathleen Chalfant and Elliott Gould in this play by Dorothy Lyman about two neighbors in a Florida retirement community – in lockdown but open to love

Careful What You Wish For
Metropolitan Playhouse
8 p.m.
Michèle LaRue tells two classic stories: O. Henry’s The Rathskeller and the Rose about an ambitious actor who tries to land a role in a very unusual way; and Kate Chopin’s A Pair of Silk Stockings, about a poor young mother whose fortunes suddenly change.

The Lost Garden
8 p.m.
A fundraiser for immersive arts workers. Wander the winding paths of The Lost Garden as we reveal secrets and stories told through original performances by over 50 first-rate immersive artists. There will be new faces, familiar faces, and, of course, delightful surprises along the way. We promise you’ll get lost, and if you’re very lucky, you might be found.

Jane Austen’s Persuasion Song Cycle
The Tank
8 p.m.
Nine songs tell the story of Persuasion, Jane Austen’s last completed, least read and most fiercely debated novel

Shoot Me When…
San Francisco Playhouse
Available through May 22 In a new play written by Ruben Grijalva , Jackie has dementia. She also has a pact, carefully crafted with her two daughters, for how to depart on her own terms when the time comes. The night has arrived, the girls have gathered, the plan is in motion—but Jackie forgot the pact.

Sunday, May 2

Lucille Lortel Awards
7 p.m.
Rather than their usual awards, this event is billed as an online celebration of Off Broadway, with appearances Bebe Neuwirth, Bill Irwin, Francis Jue, Judy Kuhn, Annette O’Toole, Larry Owens, Tonya Pinkins, Kristen Schaal, Jeremy Shamos, Susan Stroman and Jason Tam

7:30 p.m.
A concert version live from NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge spoofing the 1997 Oscar winning Titanic. “Our story begins when Céline Dion hijacks a Titanic Museum tour and enchants the audience with her totally wild take, recharting the course of Titanic’s beloved moments and characters with her iconic song catalog.”

Monday, May 3

The Pigeon and the Mouse
La MaMa
An experimental love story about leaving home.

Tuesday, May 4

Snow in Midsummer
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
through May 29
Written by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig based on the classical Chinese drama The Injustice to Dou Yi That Moved Heaven and Earth by Guan Hanqing , this 2018 U.S. premiere production interweaves two stories—of a young woman who curses her city from beyond the grave and of a wealthy businesswoman who must face the parched, locust-plagued city.

The Roundabout’s Refocus Project 
through May 7
Written by Angelina Weld Grimké in 1916, it’s believed to be the first play by a Black woman playwright professional produced in the United States. Goodhearted Rachel Love is shocked to hear a brutal story from her family’s past.

Becca: A Musical Tribute
Target ALS
7:30 p.m.
Rebecca Luker, the Broadway musical star who died in December, is celebrated in a fundraising concert featuring such Broadway colleagues as Laura Benanti, Sierra Boggess, Michael Cerveris, Victoria Clark and Santino Fontana

Wednesday, May 5

Unicorn Afterlife
Dixon Place
Both in-person and online puppet performance:  Unicorn, a beast of pure goodness and light, wakes in a black void and discovers, horrified, that it’s dead; but in the hands of a team of puppeteers, it lives again and looks for a way to escape its past, and maybe escape its future too.

Simple Lives
Open Door Playhouse
An audio play written and directed by Bernadette Armstrong that will be told in 45-minute podcast episodes.  Kathleen arrives at her grandmother’s house for her spring visit and finds the lives around her are playing out in unexpected, dramatic fashion as she witnesses her Gran and Auntie’s normal lives splinter into new dimensions of aging.

Adam Schlesinger A Musical Celebration
Rolling Lives Studio
8 p.m.
Courtney Love, Mickey Dolenz, Sean Oko Lennon are among those clebrating the music of the composer (whose work on Broadway included Cry Baby) who died last year.

Thursday, May 6

The Woman’s Party, Episode 3
1947 is the year that the savvy politicos of the National Woman’s Party will finally get the ERA passed—once they quash that insurgency. Or oust the old guard. Failure is Impossible.

50in50: Shattering the Glass Ceiling
The Billie Holiday Theatre
50 stories from 50 Black women writers from across the world and read by 50 renowned  Black women actresses including: Marsha Stephanie Blake, Dawnn Lewis, Audra McDonald, Anika Noni Rose, Angelica Ross, Gabourey Sidibe, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Wanda Sykes, Pauletta Washington, Vanessa Williams 

Waiting for Godot
The New Group
7 p.m.
$19.99 to $99
Beckett’s play features  Ethan Hawke (Vladimir), John Leguizamo (Estragon), Wallace Shawn(Lucky), Tarik Trotter (Pozzo) and Drake Bradshaw (Boy).

Oedipus at Colonus Project
Theater of War Productions
7:30 p.m.
A starry reading (by Frankie Faison, David Strathairn, etc.) of scenes from Bryan Doerries’ newest translation of Sophocles’ final play, Oedipus at Colonus, as catalyst for powerful, community-driven conversations about homelessness, the immigration and refugee crisis, and the challenges of eldercare during and after the pandemic.

Friday, May 7

I Gotta Home
Roundabout Refocus Project
The reading of a 1940 play by Shirley Graham Du Bois about the visit of a long-lost sister to an impoverished family who may be the heir to a celebrity fortune.

The Secret Garden Workshop
Broadway on Demand
8 p.m.
A tape of the 2018 workshop, originally presented for  Broadway professionals and theatre owners (meaning no costumes or sets.) The 1991 Broadway musical tells the story of Mary Lennox, a young, Indian-born English orphan sent to live with her cold and distant aunt and uncle in Yorkshire. There, Mary discovers a decrepit garden, which she sets out to bring back to life. Book and lyrics by Tony and Pulitzer Prize Award winner Marsha Norman and music by two-time Grammy Award® winner and Tony Award nominee Lucy Simon, The Secret Garden workshop was directed, choreographed, and reimagined for a new generation by Warren Carlyle. The cast of the workshop featured Clifton Duncan as Archibald, Drew Gehling as Neville Craven, Sierra Boggess as Lily, Amber Iman as Martha, Adam Chanler-Berat as Dickon, Brooklyn Shuck as Mary, Cameron Mann as Colin, Matt Doyle as Albert, Sally Ann Triplett as Medlock, Jim Norton as Ben, Anoop Desai as Fakir, and Kuhoo Verma as Ayah. 

*A few caveats:
This calendar lists shows only on the day they “open.” Some are live and available only for that one performance. Some are repeated live over several dates. Other shows are available as recordings for four days, or a week, or longer.  (I’ll put down how long they’re available, if I know.)
My definition of theater for the purposes of this calendar generally does not extend to variety shows, cast reunions, concerts, galas, panel discussions, documentaries, classes, or interviews — of which there are plenty, many worth checking out. My focus here is on creative storytelling in performance. (I make an occasional exception for a high-profile Netathon,involving many theater artists, or a novel event)
Pre-pandemic, it was relatively easy to put together a monthly calendar of openings, because theaters, companies and producers worked way in advance.  Since physical theaters were shut down , many shows are put together at the last minute, sometimes not even announced until the very day of their launch. (And there have been last-minute cancellations too.) So the listings here, even though a weekly calendar, are just a taste of what to come. (But there’s a good reason to offer such a calendar, even if incomplete: The shows (especially the ones in-person) are selling out quickly.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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