May 2021 Theater Openings, Week 3: Art in Odd Places, In-person AND Online.

Below is a day-by-day selection of theater* that is opening between May 15 and May 21, 2021, including three free (mostly outdoor) theater festivals, Miscast21, two virtual tours of Broadway history, an all-Asian “Our Town,” a steamy in-person play with an all-male cast, a virtual all-woman dance festival, several productions that are simultaneously performed in-person and streamed online, the first live in-person performance by the Metropolitan Opera since the shutdown in March 2020, as well as a week of unhinged mad scenes.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Art in Odd Places 2021: NORMAL
9 a.m to 7 p.m. also Sunday.
 The sixteenth annual public art and performance festival is taking place all along 14th Street in Manhattan, from Avenue C to the Hudson River. This is wild stuff. Check out the full schedule. Three examples: Between noon and 2 p.m. at 14th Street and Eighth Avenue, Liz Oakley will offer small puppet performances on “fire hydrants, mailboxes, ledges, and lampposts.” From noon to 3 p.m. on 14th and University, Day de Dada Performance Art Collective, dressed as nurses, will perform actions such as spontaneous or choreographed movement with enlarged and humorous props, and encourage public hum-alongs. From 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 432 West 14th Street,in “I Ping the Body Electric,” Tim Cusack “reimagines Walt Whitman’s iconic ode to human anatomy from the perspective of a 50-something, HIV-positive gay man.”

Downtown Live
En Garde Arts and The Tank
Also Sunday, and May 22 and 23
Requiring advance reservations, the offerings of free outdoor theater in three locations, featuring such downtown theater stars as David Greenspan, Baba Israel, James & Jerome, and Eisa Davis, is almost all sold out, so apologies.

Also check out En Garde Arts’ A Dozen Dreams

Work The Roots
Also May 16, 22, 23
This “supergroup of Black femme theatermakers” which includes such high-profile artist as Lileana Blain-Cruz, Eisa Davis, Jackie Sibblies Drury, and April Matthis are presenting previously unproduced plays by the late Kathleen Collins in different outdoor locations, all free, all requiring reservations. “Remembrance” (also part of Downtown Live, so sold out) and “The Reading” in the courtyard of Performance Space 122CC, where they are also offering Blain-Cruz’s 20-minute “Last night, I dreamt I danced in the image of God.” throughout the day

Animal Wisdom
The Bushwick Starr, A.C.T., Woolly Mammoth at Broadway on Demand
A musical séance fusing blues, gospel and folk in which Heather Christian “lays to rest the souls that haunt her”

Bad Jews
7 p.m. live, then on demand through May 19
$5 – $20
A reunion reading by original Off-Broadway cast members Tracee Chimo Pallero, Philip Ettinger and Michael Zegen of Joshua Harmon’s comedy about cousins who fight over “religious faith, cultural assimilation, and even the validity of each other’s romances”in the wake of their beloved grandfather’s death.

Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. available for 23 hours
Starring Isabel Leonard, Lawrence Brownlee, Christopher Maltman, Maurizo Muraro, and Paata Burchuladze, conducted by Michele Mariotti. Production by Bartlett Sher. From November 22, 2014.

Landmarks and Legends of Broadway 
New-York Historical Society
8 p.m.
In this virtual tour, Jeff Dobbins offers behind-the-scenes peeks at the past and present of Broadway theater.

Gruesome Playground Injuries
Company of Fools at Culture Lab LIC
8 p.m. available through May 24
$30 – $40
An in-person and online production of Rajiv Joseph’s play about Doug and Kayleen, who meet in the nurse’s office in their elementary school, and over the next 30 years “meet again and again, brought together by injury, heartbreak, and their own self-destructive tendencies.”

Sunday, May 16

(See Saturday’s three arts festivals listings)

Cabaret in Captivity
Untitled Theater Company
5 p.m.
On Morningside Ave, between 114th Street and 115th Street, part of the city’s Open Culture Program. (“Please bring your own seating, we will have very limited chairs available.”) Songs and sketches from the Terezin camp, written during the Holocaust, full of satire, bitter humor, and hope. 

A Concert for New York
Knockdown Center
6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Two in-person concerts at the Queens performing arts center, in which Yannick Nézet-Séguin will lead members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, and soloists Angel Blue, Stephen Costello, Justin Austin, and Eric Owens, in an eclectic program ranging from the “Lacrymosa” movement of the Mozart Requiem to the aria “Peculiar Grace” from Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, set to have its Met premiere in September.  “Tickets are being distributed by lottery to Met audience members and to first responders affiliated with Mount Sinai’s hospital in Queens.”

Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. available for 23 hours
Starring Sondra Radvanovsky, Elīna Garanča, Matthew Polenzani, and Mariusz Kwiecień, conducted by Maurizio Benini. Production by Sir David McVicar. From April 16, 2016.

Nicholas, Anna and Sergei
Hershey Felder Presents
8 p.m. ET
The latest of Hershey Felder’s live-streamed films from Florence, mostly about the lives of great composers. This one is billed as a memory play that takes place in a Beverly Hills house where the Russian Sergei Rachmaninoff met Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed to be Princess Anastasia.

8 p.m. available through May 20
The annual MCC fundraiser goes online for the second year in a row, featuring familiar performers in numbers from roles they would never play. This year we’re promised dynamic duo Gavin Creel and Aaron Tveit, who went viral “Take Me or Leave Me,” from “Rent” in the 2016 Miscast. Also this year: Kelly Marie Tran, Annaleigh Ashford, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Cheyenne Jackson, LaChanze, Idina Menzel, Kelli O’Hara and Billy Porter.

Monday, May 17

The Fatal Weakness
Mint Theater
Available through June 27
George Kelly’s 1946 play about an incurable romantic who discovers, after 28 years of marriage, that her husband is a lying cheat. Filmed Off-Broadway in 2014. My review of the play when the Mint streamed it last summer.

The Sprezzaturameron
Baryshnikov Arts Center
5 p.m. Available through May 31
This 30-minute video docudrama from multimedia artists and musicians Tei Blow and Sean McElroy (Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble) follows two men who must confront the precarious nature of art-making in an apocalyptic near-future. As they gain awareness of their own privilege in a reforming world, the duo embarks on a vision quest to craft the perfect apology, inspired by the infamous apologists of the #MeToo era.

Lilies or The Revival of a Romantic Drama
The Drama Company at the Theater Center
7 p.m. Available through May 31
In-person performance with an all-male cast of 11 actors. Simon Doucet, recently released from prison after serving a 30-year sentence for a crime he did not commit, gathers together his friends, all former prison inmates, to revisit the harrowing events that occurred during their final year at St. Sebastian’s school for boys.

Bellini’s I Puritani
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. available for 23 hours
A saga of star-crossed love and family drama set against the strife of the 17th-century English Civil War. Starring Anna Netrebko, Eric Cutler, Franco Vassallo, and John Relyea, conducted by Patrick Summers. Production by Sandro Sequi. From January 6, 2007.

Sejanus His Fall
Red Bull Theater
7:30 p.m. Live. On demand through May 21
First performed in 1603, the start of the Jacobean era, Ben Jonson’s tragedy of epic proportions is an incisive portrayal of political cronyism, sycophancy, and power. Tiberius is the Emperor of Rome. Sejanus is his right-hand man. But—in a society where books are burnt, “knowledge is made a capital offense,” and free men have become “the prey of greedy vultures and spies”—factions are forming behind each of these charismatic leaders

Tuesday, May 18

TCG Gala: Our Stories
7:30 p.m.
Featuring performances from Cambodian Rock Band and the Market Theatre Laboratory in Johannesburg, South Africa

Mozart’s Idomeneo
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. available for 23 hours
Starring Elza van den Heever, Nadine Sierra, Alice Coote, Matthew Polenzani, and Alan Opie, conducted by James Levine. Production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. From March 25, 2017.

HARP Theatricals
8 p.m.
A 45-minute comedy on YouTube about virtual group therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic with a therapist with questionable tactics.

Wednesday, May 19

Juilliard Open House
Lincoln Center’s The Juilliard School
1 p.m.
As part of Lincoln Center’s Restart Stages, this in-person, free (by lottery) presentation will offer pieces performed by actors from the Drama Division, and by Juilliard Jazz Ensembles. 

Herding Cats
London’s Soho Theater and Stellar
2:30 p.m. ET. available through May 22
In-person (in London) and online. Lucinda Coxon’s twist-filled dark comedy: To deal with work, Justine talks – a little too much – to her roommate Michael who earns a living by chatting with strangers like Saddo. But all three will soon find that in a cold, disconnected world, words may not be enough. Jassa Ahluwalia and Sophie Melville will be performing in Britain, while Greg Germann (“Grey’s Anatomy”) will join from the United States. 

Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. available for 23 hours
Starring Ekaterina Semenchuk, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Oleg Balashov, Evgeny Nikitin, René Pape, Mikhail Petrenko, and Vladimir Ognovenko, conducted by Valery Gergiev. Production by Stephen Wadsworth. From October 23, 2010.

New Mony
Dixon Place
7:30 p.m.
Colorful puppet theater in person and online: In the human cloning family business, Allimah lives a quiet, regimented life with her parents on a tiny blue planet…until she awakens to the Utopian.planet Aricama

Chichester Festival Theater
On demand through May 29
In a damaged world, four characters search for the light, in this play by the late, infamously in-your-face playwright Sarah Kane

Our Town
The National Asian American Theatre Company
8 p.m.
An all Asian-American cast offers a one-night-only benefit reading of Thornton Wilder’s play.

Thursday, May 20

The Little Hours
La MaMa, Culture Hub, Theater in Quarantine
7 and 9 p.m.
A livestreamed play-installation by Caridad Svich about two poet friends as they navigate their lives.

Behind the Curtain
Episcopal Actors Guild
7 p.m.
Inspired by a rare 1851 book, Before and Behind the Curtain by William Knight Northall, Ralph Lewis offers a virtual tour of the history of theater in New York City, from a single venue to an entire Theater District

7:30 p.m. On demand through May 23
A virtual festival of dance ranging from contemporary to club and street styles, featuring four dance films and two live world premieres performed at New York Live Arts.

Bellini’s La Sonnambula
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. available for 23 hours
Starring Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Flórez, and Michele Pertusi, conducted by Evelino Pidò. Production by Mary Zimmerman. From March 21, 2009.

Life Studies
The Civilians
8 p.m.
The Spring benefit of this celebrated documentary theater troupe will livestream performances by Civilian artists and guests

The Sisters Rosensweig
Spotlight on Plays on Stellar
8 p.m. Available through May 24.
$12 (before 5/18), $18
This Zoom reading of Wendy Wasserstein’s comedy about the reunion of three sisters features Jason Alexander, John Behlmann, Lisa Edelstein, Kathryn Hahn, Kathryn Newton, Tracee Chimo Pallero, Chris Perfetti & James Urbaniak

This American Wife
FourthWall Theatrical and Fake Friends on Stellar
8 p.m. Livestreamed through May 29 On demand May 31-June 6
This campy, cheeky multimedia tribute to The Real Housewives TV franchisee is he newest experiment in live internet theater from Fake Friends (who brought us Circle Jerk).

Friday, May 21

Wine In The Wilderness
Roundabout’s Refocus Project
Available through May 24
In Alice Childress play, a struggling artist is working on his masterpiece, a triptych representing different aspects of Black womanhood,  when one of his models makes him rethink his conception of the feminine ideal.  The latest reading of the Refocus Project, the play debuted on TV in 1969, but some stations refused to air it.

Keen Company
7 p.m.
An audio drama by Melissa Li and Kit Yan (“Interstate”).about a podcast that travels with its listeners to an uninhabited island off the southern coast of China

Verdi’s Nabucco
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. available for 23 hours
Starring Liudmyla Monastyrska, Jamie Barton, Russell Thomas, Plácido Domingo, and Dmitry Belosselskiy, conducted by James Levine. Production by Elijah Moshinsky. From January 7, 2017.

Grey Matters
Colt Coeur
8 p.m. Available through May 26
$5 – $250
Based on real life events, the play chronicles the love, labor and pain of being in an interracial marriage in Brooklyn in the 1970 and 1980s. Jeannie is white and pregnant, Ed is black and the father, they love each other but… is love enough? Does grey matter?

Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Austin Playhouse
8:30 pm ET.Available through June 5
A virtual production  directed and adapted by Lara Toner Haddock of Agatha Christie’s first published novel, which introduced the world to one of her most beloved characters, Belgian Inspector Hercule Poirot. 

**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 consider the listings here, even though a weekly calendar, as just a taste of what’s 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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