Below is a day-by-day calendar of theater opening* in October, a thrilling selection featuring eight Broadway shows (four of them Pulitzer winners, a fifth the nineteenth Broadway play in an extraordinary six-decade career), as well as much Off-Broadway theater I consider either must-see or too weird to miss (Ralph Fiennes as Robert Moses, Tonya Pinkins as Lena Younger, Heathcliff’s Catherine as a rock chick, a German-speaking Hamlet), and even exciting new digital theater (Paula Vogel launching her third season of Bard at the Gate.)
This is a month of theatrical abundance:
•two personal shows by popular singer-songwriters;
•two avant-garde adaptations of beloved novels;
•two long-running experimental companies presenting their final productions;
•three classic plays by African-American playwrights;
•four with all Black casts.
There are even four different nights in October with four works of theater or more opening at the same time.
Top row left to right: Leopoldstadt playwright Tom Stoppard, Lazarus creator Ping Chong, Cost of Living’s Greg Mozgala, scene from 1776
2nd: Wendell Pierce and Sharon D Clarke from Death of a Salesman, Piano Lesson’s Samuel L Jackson, Melissa Etheridge, scene from Withering Heights,
3rd: Jill Sobule, Raisin in the Sun’s Tonya Pinkins,Topdog/Underdog playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, Straight Line Crazy’s Ralph Fiennes
bottom: Walking with Ghosts’ Gabriel Byrnes, Take Me Out’s Jesse Williams, Hamlet’s Lars Eidinger, A Man of No Importance’s Jim Parson
The calendar is organized chronologically by opening date*, but we must consider the dates tentative, because COVID-19 is ongoing and unpredictable.
Each title below is linked to a relevant website. Color key: Broadway: Red 🟥. Off Broadway: Blue 🟦. Off Off Broadway: Green 🟩. Digital or Hybrid Theater: Yellow 🟨 Theater festival: Orange 🟧. Immersive: Silver ⬜️ . Puppetry: Brown 🟫 Opera: Purple🟪
For children ages 6 and above, a play by native Hawaiian writer Lee Cataluna’s New York debut with director Kat Yen. Set in a Hawaii before statehood, two sisters reckon with what family can mean. On a small island in the center of the Pacific Ocean, two girls face a huge storm, a collision of cultures, and the tension of sibling rivalry.
🟫Simon and His Shoes (The Tank)
A musical about a pair of shoes, Bud & Beedle, who walk out on their owner, Simon, because he doesn’t wear them, forcing him finally to leave his house in order to chase after them. Featuring puppet design by The Ladies of Mischief (Mery Cheung, Julia Darden, and Christina Rodriguez.) Saturdays and Sundays through Oct 30.
The nineteenth Broadway production of a play by Tom Stoppard, 85, is inspired by his own Jewish family history. A multigenerational saga set over several decades in Vienna, Austria before and after World War II, it features a large cast, most of whom are making their Broadway debuts, but also Broadway veterans Brandon Uranowitz,Seth Numrich and Caissey Levy.
🟦 Baldwin and Buckley at Cambridge (Elevator Repair Service at Public Theater)
A re-creation of a 1965 debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley Jr. on whether “the American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro.”
🟩Ping Chong’s Lazarus 1972–2022 (LaMaMa)
An interdisciplinary meditation on the resurrected man, transplanted from its Biblical setting to the urban purgatory of New York City. Fifty years after his first version of this work, Ping Chong is presenting it as his last work as artistic director of Ping Chong and Company.
🟥Cost of Living (MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater)
Martyna Majok’s 2018 Pulitzer Prize winning play that tells two parallel stories, about people with disabilities and their caretakers. In my review of the original production, I called it an eye-opening play featuring a quartet of extraordinary performances, offering a tart retort to that sappy Barbra Streisand song about the luck of people who need people, and smashing more than one stereotype along the way. The Broadway version stars two of the four original cast members, Gregg Mozgala and Katy Sullivan, and replaces the two original caretakers, with Kara Young and David Zayas. My recent interview with Gregg Mozgala. First preview September 13
🟩Bill Finger: Rise of the Bat (Chain Theater)
A play about the co-creator of Batman, who died poor, receiving no credit until after his death.
🟨The Suppliants Project: Ukraine (Theater of War Productions)
Dramatic readings of Aeschylus’ Suppliants both live in-person at the University of Notre Dame football stadium, and worldwide via Zoom, featuring professional actors (Anthony Edwards, Keith David etc) and a chorus of Ukrainian students, to help frame guided discussions about the impact of war on individuals, families, and communities. Captioned in English and Ukrainian with audio interpretation in English and Ukrainian.
🟪Tosca (Metropolitan Opera)
The turbulant opera singer Floria Tosca tries save her lover Cavaradossi from the cruel police chief, Scarpia in Puccini’s tragic tale, starring sopranos Aleksandra Kurzak, Angela Gheorghiu, and Liudmyla Monastyrska in the title role of the desperate diva, opposite tenors Michael Fabiano, Roberto Alagna, and Yusif Eyvazov as the ardent painter-revolutionary Cavaradossi.
🟧United Solo Theater Festival (Theater Row)
The thirteenth annual festival runs through November 17.It begins tonight with “Jewbana” performed and co-written by Susie K. Taylor
🟦I’m Revolting (Atlantic)
In Gracie Gardner’s play, patients at a skin cancer clinic in NYC wait to find out how much of themselves they’re about to lose.
🟦The Winter’s Tale and Hedda Gabler (Bedlam at Irondale Center)
In its tenth anniversary season, the consistently wonderful theater company Bedlam performs two classic plays in repertory: Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler,” about a woman trapped in a marriage she doesn’t want, adapted by Jon Robin Baitz (“Other Desert Cities”) ,and Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale.”
🟦Harlem Firefighters on a Latin Beat (Pregones/PRTT)
A musical set in 1917 inspired by the history of the celebrated all-Black 369th Infantry of the New York Army National Guard, aka Harlem Hellfighters, which included 17 musician-soldiers from Puerto Rico. Performed in English and Spanish with captions.
🟥1776 (Roundabout’s American Airlines Theater)
Directed by Jeffrey L. Page and Diane Paulus, this second Broadway revival of the 1969 Tony winning musical tells the story of the meeting in 1776 of the Continental Congress that resulted in the Declaration of Independence employs a cast composed entirely of female, non-binary and trans performers. First preview September 16. Closing January 8.
🟩Fuente Ovejuna (Teatro Circulo at Chain Theater)
In this classic play by the sixteenth century Spanish playwright Lope de Vega, the peasants of Fuente Ovejuna have meekly endured the tyranny of their lecherous overlord, but when one woman stands up in defense of her honor, the townspeople are galvanized at last into rebellion. Performed in Spanish Verse with Overtitles in English
⬜️Cocktail Magique (Company XIV)
In this new show created by the company best-known for the immersive burlesque Nutcracker Rouge, audience members are served a selection of cocktails and small bites while watching magic tricks, Vegas showgirls and circus sideshows.
🟩Powerhouse (Manhattan Rep at A.R.T./New York)
A female lawyer in her 40s is being pushed out of her high-profile law firm due to an inappropriate relationship she is having with a younger associate.
🟩The Comedy of Errors (Gallery Players)
Shakespeare’s farcical comedy about the misadventures of two sets of identical twins who were accidentally separated at birth in a shipwreck.
🟥Death of a Salesman (The Hudson)
This fifth Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s tragedy of the common man, widely considered the best American play of the twentieth century, is told from the perspective of an African American family. Cast members Wendell Pierce and Sharon D Clarke starred in an acclaimed London production; they are joined by André De Shields as Ben Loman, Khris Davis as Biff Loman, McKinley Belcher III as Happy Loman. First preview September 17. Closing January 15
🟩Bethune Our Black Velvet Rose (Theaterlab)
The life of civil rights activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, written by and co-starring Richarda Abrams, who previously performed a well-received solo show about the educator, advocate and adviser to presidents. Begins Oct. 7, closes Oct 23.
🟧Breaking the Binary Theater Festival: “Trans World” (Theater Row)
Transgender, non-binary, and Two-Spirit+ artists present seven FREE evenings of new work, starting tonight with a reading of “Trans World” by Ty Defoe: “When several trans individuals are picked to temporarily live in a house and get filmed non-stop for a new reality TV show, the lines between pretend and real drama become uncomfortably blurred.” Note: The festival is entirely “sold out.” (In quotation marks because it’s free.) I’ve been told they are planning to release more seats and will post updates on @btbtfnyc.
🟦peerless (Primary Stages at 59e59)
Jiehae Park’s twist on Shakespeare’s Macbeth set in the cutthroat world of elite college admissions
🟧Breaking the Binary Theater Festival: “Twitch” (Theater Row)
The reading of a play by Liliana Padilla
🟧Breaking the Binary Theater Festival: “Hide and Hide” (Theater Row)
A reading of Roger Q. Mason’s play, in which a recent Filipina immigrant collides with an escapee from a Christian conversion camp in 1980 Los Angeles.
🟥The Piano Lesson (Barrymore Theater)
Directed by Latanya Richardson Jackson and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Danielle Brooks, and John David Washington, this first revival of August Wilson’s 1990 Pulitzer Prize winning play, the fourth in his American Century Cycle, is set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in 1936, with a brother and sister embroiled in a battle over a family heirloom piano carved with the faces of their ancestors.
🟦Everything’s Fine (DR2 Theater)
John Lithgow directs Douglas McGrath, a writer for the New Yorker and Saturday Night Live, in this solo autobiographical play starting in his teenage years in Texas, focusing on an eighth-grade teacher who would change his life.
🟦Melissa Etheridge Off Broadway (New World Stages)
The full title is Melissa Etheridge Off Broadway: My Window – A Journey Through Life, which promises an evening of storytelling and music, from tales of her childhood in Kansas to the career highlights of this singer-songwriter of “I’m the Only One,” “Come to My Window,” and “I Want to Come Over.”
🟧Breaking the Binary Theater Festival: “Work Hard Have Fun Make History” (Theater Row)
The reading of a play by ruth tang that’s “an exhaustive catalog of all the possible kinds of phone calls that exist..”
🟦Cookin’ (New Victory)
Physical theater from South Korea: “Working against the clock to prepare a wedding feast, four zany chefs make a manic menu of nonstop, high-speed action that whips up into an all-you-can-eat frenzy of martial arts and Korean samulnori drumming. “
🟩 Last Gasp: A Recalibration (La MaMa ETC)
Split Britches (the lesbian-feminist performance duo Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver) rework for the live stage what had become pandemic-era digital theater; they “unpick what it means to be in a theatre, and what it means to perform. With episodes entitled ‘The Trump in Me’ and ‘How to Set a Table in an Emergency’”
🟧Breaking the Binary Theater Festival: “Nana” (Theater Row)
A reading of Aziza Barnes’ play set amid a family in the Bronx in the late 1950s
🟧Breaking the Binary Theater Festival: “Thelma and Louise and the Time Machine” (Theater Row)
The reading of a new play by Mara Vélez Meléndez
🟩The Gold Room (HERE)
In this play by Jacob Perkins,making his professional playwriting debut, two middle-aged men meet for a chance sexual encounter, only to find themselves entangled in a haunting role-play.
🟧Breaking the Binary Theater Festival:(Theater Row)
An evening of fifteen new monologues from transgender, non-binary, and Two-Spirit+ (TNB2S+) writers
🟦Wuthering Heights (St Ann’s Warehouse)
Emma Rice’s whimsical, musical adaptation of Emily Brontë’s novel about Heathcliff, who becomes obsessed with vengeance after he loses Catherine. Rice (who adapted “Brief Encounter” in 2010 for Broadway) takes liberties, but in ways that the British critics largely praised. Begins Oct 14
🟦Chester Bailey (Irish Rep)
Starring real-life father and son, Reed Birney and Ephraim Birney, Joseph Dougherty’s play tells the story of a doctor who tries to lead a wounded World War II vet back to reality.
🟨Shapeshifter (Bard at the Gate)
Paula Vogel’s digital theater series launches its third (all-female) season with this contemporary folktale by Laura Schellhardt, about a young girl on a remote island in a distant past who grapples with the mysterious loss of her mother. As the truth unfolds, two strangers arrive harboring secrets of their own
🟩What Kind of Woman (cell theater)
Abbe Tanenbaum’s play is inspired by twenty letters she discovered from women seeking abortions in the 1970’s.
⬜️A Year of Magical Thinking (Keen Company)
Kathleen Chalfant stars in this revival of the solo show adapting Joan Didion’s memoir recounting her journey of loss and perseverance. The show will be staged in non-traditional theater spaces including living rooms and libraries.
🟦Albert Camus’ The Fall (Soho Playhouse)
Belgian-born actor Ronald Guttman portays a man confessing to strangers in a bar in this solo performance that adapts the Nobel Prize winning author’s last novel. Begins performances October 13.
🟦Radio Macbeth (SITI at NYU Skirball)
Part of SITI Company’s final season, inspired by Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre on the Air. “Late at night in the guts of an abandoned theater, actors circle restlessly around the common shared warmth of a rehearsal table, moving through Shakespeare’s briefest and perhaps most magnetic play. Around them, in the perimeter of the space, the ghosts of all previous productions hover and encroach.”
🟥Topdog/Underdog (John Golden Theater)
Written by Suzan-Lori Parks, and directed by Kenny Leon, this is the first Broadway revival of Parks’ 2002 Pulitzer-winning play about two brothers named Lincoln and Booth playing three card monte who discover the true nature of their history. Corey Hawkins as Lincoln, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Booth. First preview September 27
🟦A Little Life (Brooklyn Academy of Music)
Celebrated avant-garde director Ivo van Hove adapts the bestselling novel A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara he complex relationships between four ambitious friends—a lawyer, an actor, an architected and an artist. In Dutch with English subtitles.
🟩Posaka (La MaMa ETC)
from the indigenous troupe Kinding Sinew, a performance combining ritual, chant, gong and movement that explores themes of displacement, resilience, and collective healing through ancestral arts.
🟧Days of the Dead Festival (The Kraine and Under St. Marks)
Some dozen new plays on the theme of death and the afterlife, inspired by the Mexican holiday. Launches today with two hour-long shows; One Man Poe at 3 p.m. (performing Edgar Alan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum and The Raven) and A Night with the Dead Cabaret at 7 p.m. (a variety show in which artists dedicate their performances to a deceased loved one.)
🟧“Our Voices, Our Time” One-Act Play Festival (Negro Ensemble at Cherry Lane)
Three new plays performed together through November 6:
“Clipper Cut Nation” by Cris Eli Blak, directed by Ralph McCain. A neighbor enters the local barbershop and accuses a local politician of murdering his son years ago
“What If” by Cynthia Grace Robinson, directed by Daniel Carlton. A Black college student’s need to fight for justice unleashes her mother’s fears for her child’s life.
“I Don’t Do That” by Mona R. Washington, directed by Petronia Paley. Newly engaged Norah (African-American) and Simon (Nigerian) go from a thwarted romantic moment to an argument based on stereotypes and power.
🟩F*CK7THGRADE (The Wild Project)
Singer-songwriter Jill Sobule (whose 1990’s hits include “Supermodel” and “I Kissed a Girl.”—has scored and conceived this “queer musical memoir” that features an adolescent romance and a brief rise to pop stardom
🟦Chekhov’s First Play (Irish Arts Center)
Dead Centre theater company deconstructs Chekhov’s earliest text, discovered after his death.
🟧 Days of the Dead Festival (The Kraine and Under St. Marks)
The Mystery of the Green Teeth Ghost
My Grandmother’s Eye Patch
🟦Hound Dog (Ars Nova at Greenwich House)
Writer, actor and musician Melis Aker tells the story, with aid from the Lazours, of a young musician returning to Ankara from abroad to be with her widowed father. Begins performances October 6.
🟦A Raisin in the Sun (Public Theater)
A revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking drama about a Black family moving into a white neighborhood. Directed by Robert O’Hara, starring Tonya Pinkins as Lena Younger, Francois Battiste as Walter Younger, Mandi Maiden as Ruth Younger, and Paige Gilbert as Beneath Younger
🟦Straight Line Crazy (The Shed)
Ralph Fiennes portrays NYC power broker Robert Moses in a new play by David Hare. The play presents an imagined retelling of the arc of Moses’s controversial career in two decisive moments: his rise to power in the late 1920s and the public outcry against the corrosive effects of that power in the mid-1950s. Moses created new parks, new bridges, and 627 miles of expressway to connect the people to the great outdoors. However, he often achieved these public works at the expense of disempowered New Yorkers.
🟥Walking With Ghosts (Music Box Theater)
Written and performed by Gabriel Byrne, directed by Lonny Price, this is a stage adaption of Byrne’s memoir of the same name, about his life from working class Dublin to Hollywood. First preview October 18. Closing December 30.
🟥“Take Me Out” (Bernard Schoenfeld Theater)
A return to Broadway of the Tony-winning revival of Richard Greenberg’s play about a star baseball player who comes out of the closet (portrayed by Tony-nominated Jesse Williams) and his new accountant (Tony winning Jesse Tyler Ferguson), who becomes smitten…with baseball. The cast is intact except for newcomer Bill Heck replacing Patrick J. Adams. (My review of the production in April.) Closing January 29, 2023.
🟦Hamlet (Brooklyn Academy of Music)
German director Thomas Ostermeier’s much talked-about production of Shakespeare’s tragedy features pop music, drag shows, and courtly duels coexisting in riotous harmony. Lars Eidinger as the Dane. In German with English subtitles.
🟩War of the Worlds – The Radio Play (SITI at Laurie Beechman)
A staged dramatization of the original 1938 Orson Welles & Mercury Theater on the Air broadcast about a Martian invasion that many listeners reportedly believed. This is part of the final season of SITI, Anne Bogart’s long-running experimental theater,
🟫9000 Paper Balloons (Japan Society)
Inspired by Imperial Japan’s stranger-than-fiction secret weapons that floated over America during World War II, this poetic and eerie puppet theater performance examines distance — the distance between two friends, between two enemies, two cultures and two generations
🟧 Days of the Dead Festival (Under St. Marks)
🟦A Man of No Importance (Classic Stage)
Jim Parsons stars in this revival of Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Terrence McNally’s musical, based on a 1994 film set in Dublin in the 1960s about a bus driver and leader of an amateur theater troupe determined a production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome despite the objections of local church authorities
Opening night is usually not the same as the first performance on Broadway and frequently Off-Broadway as well. There is usually a preview period, where the creative team tries out the show before an audience, and opening night is when 1. the show is “frozen” (no more changes), and 2. the reviews are published/posted/broadcast; reviews are forbidden, indeed, from being published before then. (Off-Off Broadway shows often have no preview period or official opening night; they just start.) It can be hard to find the date of the opening night; productions rarely state it clearly on their websites. But I organize this calendar by opening night (when it exists and when I can find it) rather than first performance, as a way to support the continuing relevance of theater reviewing. Check out my essay: Broadway Opening Night. What It Means. How It’s Changed. 7 Facts to Clear Up The Confusion and Crystallize the Outrage.
What Is Broadway🟥, Off-Broadway🟦, Off-Off Broadway🟩?
Off-Broadway theaters, by definition, have anywhere from 100 to 499 seats. If a theater has more seats than that, it’s a Broadway house. If it has fewer, it’s Off-Off Broadway. (There is a more sophisticated definition, having to do with contracts, and more elaborate distinctions, having to do with ticket prices, number and location of theaters, length of runs, willingness to take artistic risks, etc.)
(Several performing arts venues in New York City, such as The Shed, Little Island and NYU Skirball, technically exist outside these classifications; I list them as Off-Broadway, even though they have more than 500 seats.)