Below is a day-by-day selection of theater openings scheduled for January organized by opening date*, featuring a Broadway play, “Skeleton Crew,” and several intriguing shows Off and Off-Off Broadway, such as Taylor Mac’s new queer musical about Socrates, “The Hang,” a new opera with the same story as the Oscar-winning Holocaust film “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis,” a new take on “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” and a revival of “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” starring Cecily Strong.
We must consider this calendar tentative for the in-person theater offerings. Although all theaters require proof of vaccination and the wearing of masks (and some are now requiring proof of a negative laboratory or rapid Covid test), the current surge of COVID-19 cases has caused a startling number of delays and cancellations because of breakthrough infections among cast or crew. Expect more.
January historically has been a robust month in theater, thanks to the many theater festivals. But many had already folded by last year (when the remaining went digital) and this year, the Public Theater delivered a blow on January 1st, when it canceled what would have been its 18th annual Under the Radar Festival, the oldest and largest of the winter festivals, because of “multiple disruptions related to the rapid community spread of the Omicron variant – including artist and staff availability, artist and audience cancellations, major flight interruptions, and visa processing delays.” Only three festivals remain, promising a much reduced number of (mostly short, experimental) works, and even these are uncertain: the tenth annual Prototype (January 7-16), which is scheduled to present five in-person shows (including The Hang); the sixth annual Exponential, (January 11-31) which this year has gone digital (some dozen are listed so far as scheduled for either YouTube or Twitch); and the 14th annual Origin 1st Irish (January 6-31), which is promising a hybrid festival (four in-person plays, in various venues, and seven digital)
Update January 3: Prototype has canceled the festival, with only The Hang continuing.
Rattlestick is presenting a digital work called “Addressless” (Clyde’s, which opened in November, is the only Broadway show that is scheduled to live-stream the production, in the final two weeks of its run, from January 4 – 16.) It would not be completely surprising if other shows scheduled for in-person performances this month went hybrid, or even exclusively digital.
January 6, 2022
Sugar Ray (Gene Frankel Theater)
Reginald L. Wilson stars as Sugar Ray Robinson in Laurence Holder’s biographical play about “pound for pound, the greatest boxer of all time.”
Cannabis (HERE at La MaMa)
Update Jan 3: Cannabis has been canceled.
Subtitled “A Viper Vaudeville,” the theatrical concert explores the history of cannabis using music, dance, and spoken word grounded in the Hip Hop tradition of the remix and mashup. The team includes Grace Galu as composer/performer, Baba Israel as writer, performer, and co-director, in collaboration the groups Soul Inscribed and Urban Bush Women.
I saw a preview of Cannabis last Summer at Little Island, and found its fusion of jazz and hip hop and pop sometimes thrilling.
Duck Duck Goose (1st Irish festival online)
In this play by Catriona Daly, presented online by the Irish theater company Fishamble, we witness the unfolding story and dizzying shift of perspectives when a man becomes deeply embroiled in his attempt to help a friend who is accused of rape.
The monologue that Lily Tomlin made famous, portraying 12 different characters pontificating on such matters as a compressed history of the feminist movement, is freshly revisited nearly four decades later by its playwright Jane Wagner and directed by Leigh Silverman (Lifespan of a Fact, Violet) with Cecily Strong (of Saturday Night Live and Schmigadoon) making her New York theater debut.
Recursive Cast with Tammy and Tad (Exponential on YouTube)
“A dark, surrealist satire of the amateur TV recap podcast genre,” which launches the Exponential festival.
An interactive theatrical game online in which audiences encounter firsthand the complex challenges of homelessness. Audiences are asked to follow a character and make a series of decisions: Will their character sleep on the street or sleep in a hostel? Will they ask people for money or try to find work? While some decisions might earn the character money, they may also take a toll on their life expectancy and physical wellbeing.
Scar Tissue (Players Theater)
Playwright Victoria Fragnito stars as Jessica, who is best friends with Sam( Rita McCann), both of whom suffer from unhealed wounds from past relationships. An impromptu lunch date and an unexpected overnight guest force them finally to confront what they’ve long denied.
Joseph Hendel created this “AI collage of internet masculinity” specifically as a “digital art piece” from the get-go. It features a “cast of performers scattered throughout the world,” and takes inspiration “from puppet theater, oratorio, stopmotion animation, and gonzo journalism.”
The Hang (HERE Arts Center)
Taylor Mac’s new musical, with music by Matt Ray, imagines the final hours of Socrates’ life as a queer party, and a centuries-long consideration of virtue “full of jazz, dance, debates, and queer romps.”
Whisper House (59E59)
A musical ghost story by Duncan Sheik and Kyle Jarrow takes place in an eerie lighthouse on the remote coast of Maine at the beginning of World War II, with a Japanese immigrant, his employer, and her visiting nephew,who begins to hear strange music seeping through the wall.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Audible’s Minetta Lane Theater
Robert O’Hara (director of “Slave Play,” playwright of “Bootycandy” and “Barbecue”) reimagines Eugene O’Neill’s tragedy about the Tyrone family inspired by the events of 2020. The production stars Bill Camp, Elizabeth Marvel, Ato Blankson-Wood and Jason Bowen.
MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
Written by Dominique Morisseau
Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Based on Giorgio Bassani’s 1962 novel, which was adapted in 1970 by Vittorio De Sica into an Oscar winning film, the musical begins on the eve of World War II and tells the story of an aristocratic Italian-Jewish family, the Finzi-Continis, who believe they are immune to the changes happening around them. This co-production by New York City Opera and National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene has music by Ricky Ian Gordon (Intimate Apparel, Ellen West) and a libretto by Michael Korie (Flying Over Sunset, Grey Gardens.)
Space Dogs (MCC)
This new musical Van Hughes and Nick Blaemire tells the true story of a stray dog and the top secret Russian scientist who sent her to space during the Cold War.
Update: Opening delayed until February 13
Update: Opening delayed to February 7
Two characters are trapped in a minstrel show, in this play by Dave Harris
*Opening night is usually not the same as first performance (there is usually a preview period, where the creative team tries out the show before an audience, and opening night is when the reviews appear.) There are exceptions: Most shows appearing in short runs at theater festivals don’t have a preview period, so the first night and opening night are one and the same. But in any case, the term is increasingly meaningless (for one thing, most critics these days don’t even get invited until after “opening night.”) Still, I’m trying to withhold tradition here.