There were five Broadway openings (and reopenings) this week, in what promises to be the oddest and busiest Broadway season in memory.
There are now 51 shows on the Broadway 2021-2022 season schedule. The first two have already completed their run. Fifteen shows that were previously on Broadway have now reopened, with seven more scheduled to do so as early as this Thursday, as late as next April. Twenty new productions have announced opening nights, half of them revivals, half brand new plays or musicals. And more announcements are surely on the way.
The Week in New York Theater Reviews
Rajiv Joseph’s epistolary play begins with some meager clues to the mysteries at its heart – a stack of letters from a man named Suresh, and an origami sculpture of a bird – before it slowly unfolds into the lovely stories of four characters, beautifully portrayed in what’s largely a series of monologues, who seek connection, try to understand love, and live with grief and regret.
“Thoughts of a Colored Man,” Keenan Scott II’s often powerful, often entertaining debut Broadway play about a day in the life of seven Black men in Brooklyn, is performed by a terrific seven-member cast of familiar faces from such stellar series grounded in authentic Black life as The Wire, The Chi, When They See Us, and Pose*. At the same time, it is also clearly inspired by “for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow Is enuf,” the “choreopoem” (as its playwright Ntozake Shange dubbed it) that was a hit on Broadway in the 1970s.
The country has changed in the two and a half years since The Lehman Trilogy came to America, wowing audiences at the Park Avenue Armory with a theatrical epic, inventively staged and extraordinarily acted, if historically blinkered, that dramatizes the 164-year history of the Lehman Brothers – starting with the arrival in America of the first of the three brothers, Hayum Lehmann, in 1844, and ending (three and a half hours later) with the collapse of the venerable financial institution in 2008. Opening now on Broadway, “The Lehman Trilogy” is also different than it was in 2019, some of it in evident response to the changing times. The question is whether it has changed enough.
“Dana H.” is unlike any play you’ve ever seen on Broadway. It’s 75 minutes of an actress sitting on a chair, lip-syncing to a tape of a woman recounting the horrific story of a deranged criminal in Florida abducting her and terrorizing her for five months.
Those intrigued by the show might have some basic questions: Is this really theater? Is the story really true? Is it really worth paying up to $199 per ticket to see?
I don’t have definitive answers for you. But I left the Lyceum exhilarated, thinking: This was an incredible work of theater…What makes “Dana H.” exhilarating, I realized, is the performance by Deirdre O’Connell.
The Week in New York Theater News
Martyna Majok’s “Sanctuary City” ended its run Sunday at Lucille Lortel Theater. BUT New York Theater Workshop announced it will stream the play online October 25-November 21 – suggesting that the digital theater of the pandemic period will lead to a new era of hybrid theater.
This contrasts with the news from the UK: “Research has found that 56% of publicly subsidised theatres that had at least one online performance during the first 18 months of the pandemic have none scheduled for the autumn season.” (The Guardian)
Cecily Strong, who broke into musical theater sort of as the co-lead of Apple+’s Schmigadoon, will make her New York theatrical debut in a new production at the Shed of “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” Jane Wagner’s one-woman comedy, made popular by Lily Tomlin. Directed by Leigh Silverman, it will run from December 21, 2021 to February 6, 2022. The show kicks off a new season at the Shed that will include a live, in person production of Claudia Rankine’s new play Help that was planned for 2020.
Canadian actor Noah Reid (best known for “Schitts Creek” will star in Tracy Lett’s “The Minutes” on Broadway (replacing Armie Hammer.) This was the last play I saw on Broadway (in previews) before the shutdown. It is now scheduled to open in April, 2022.
The Book of Mormon is offering a “fan performance” free on November 4.. The catch? You have to post on social media about your “mission companion”
Zhailon Levingston, fresh off his Broadway debut directing “Chicken & Biscuits,” will to direct the 13th annual Fire This Time Festival, January 17 to February 6 at The Kraine Theater, featuring new plays by Agyeiwaa Asante, Rachel Herron, Fedna Jacquet, Marcus Scott, Phillip Christian Smith and Lisa Rosetta Strum.
Ben Cameron’s Broadway Sessions musical theatre variety show returns to The Laurie Beechman Theater at the West Bank Café live and in person on October 21
Former Hamilton cast member Suni Reid, Black and non-binary, alleges their contract wasn’t renewed because they requested a gender-neutral dressing room. Producers say they supported Reid, financially and otherwise, and withdrew the contract only after learning they were being sued. (NY Times)
Theresa Rebeck is grateful that Jeremy O. Harris protested the lack of female playwrights in the Center Theatre Group’s current season (they subsequently made amends by scheduling an all-female season next year.) But why did it take a man for people to notice? “If a racial reckoning is underway, the gender reckoning is still struggling,” Rebeck writes.