The Theater Crisis, Explained. Sarah Paulson Back on Broadway. #Stageworthy News of the Week

A Crisis in America’s Theaters made the front page this week: “There is less theater in America these days. Fewer venues. Fewer productions. Fewer performances,” Michael Paulson wrote at the start of a big takeout in the New York Times for which he interviewed the leaders of 72 theater companies across the country.  A few days later, Paulson himself was interviewed:

How many of the issues that challenge nonprofit theaters stem from the pandemic?

The pandemic was an accelerant. But the issues at the heart of this crisis — the aging of the audience, the growing role of streaming media in people’s entertainment diets, the decline in subscriptions as the way consumers plan their theatergoing — were underway before it. The economic situation combined with this inflationary moment proved unsurvivable for a number of theaters and damaging for many more…”

American Theatre Magazine offered a long feature Theatre in Crisis: What We’re Losing, and What Comes Next, which includes a list of theaters that have closed since March, 2020. 

The ones in New York City include
The Lark (1994-2021), Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab (1995-2022), Metropolitan Playhouse (1993-2023), New Ohio Theater (1993-2023),  The SITI Company (1992-2022), St. Luke’s Theatre (2006-2021), Under the Radar Festival (2005-2023.)

The article breaks down it analysis to sections on  what role programming is playing in theaters’ relative success or failure; the state of fundraising; whether the nonprofit business model needs an overhaul; and, finally, “a forward-looking note, because as difficult as this moment is for specific theatres and theatre workers, live theatre as an art form is not in danger of disappearing…”

Proof, if it’s needed, are the announcements this week of new New York stage shows with familiar actors: Sarah Paulson, Patrick Page, Rachel Bloom and, making her stage debut, Aubrey Plaza. (See below.)

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

Here Lies Love 

the closest Broadway will probably ever get to immersive theater, … a combination dance party and ever-changing multimedia art installation,… Each of the three aspects of “Here Lies Love” – the historical narrative, the unconventional musical, the immersive dance party – offers its own pleasures, even as each has its own shortcomings, and together they sometimes work at cross purposes. Full Review 

The Cottage

I laughed at the very first of the many silly sight gags in “The Cottage,” as performed by the delightful Laura Bell Bundy, and was surprised and amused by the initial twist in this twisty tale of adulterous affairs, as revealed by the dashing Eric McCormack. I certainly found the show deliciously designed, its gorgeous costumes by Sydney Maresca, its clever, cluttered, majestic interior by someone with the somehow fitting name of Paul Tate dePoo III. All in all, I might have been won over by former “Seinfeld” star Jason Alexander’s Broadway directorial debut —  had the production been 70 minutes long, tops. But long before the curtain call, not even the terrifically appealing cast nor the much-welcome air conditioning could dissuade me from seeing this ersatz 1920s British comedy of manners as a tedious two-hour exercise in comic overkill.


Lightweight” is a sly and somewhat misleading title for Amie Enriquez’s solo show about her year-long stay at an addiction treatment center: Sly because the play is about her eating disorder, which made her a literal lightweight; and misleading both because Enriquez is a skilled entertainer (not a lightweight) who portrays some dozen different characters with precision and relish, and because her play…is not all lightness and laughs. Full Review

Cat Kid Comic Club The Musical 

There is a lesson that seems aimed squarely at the Governor of Florida in this lively musical for young children, which features cheeky, wacky songs … an adaptation of the series of graphic novels by bestselling author and illustrator  Dav Pilkey. Full Review

The Week in New York Theater News

Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” a new play by  Jocelyn Bioh, directed by Whitney White, opens on Broadway October 3 at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater.

Sarah Paulson returns to Broadway after a decade to star in Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ “Appropriate,” directed by Lila Neugebauer, which will open on December 18th at Second Stage’s Helen Hayes Theater

This brings to fifteen, the number of shows in the Broadway 2023-2024 season with  specific opening dates and theaters.

Patrick Page, most recently on Broadway in “Hadestown,” will return to the New York stage in All The Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain, opening October 16 at DR2 Theater. I saw this wonderful production during the pandemic as a work of digital theater.

Rachel Bloom, the co-creator and star of TV’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, to star in the one-woman musical “Death, Let Me Do My Show” opening September 14 at Lucille Lortel Theater.

Aubrey Plaza, one of the stars of the sitcom Parks and Recreation, will make her stage debut, co-starring with Christopher Abbott (a star of “Girls”) , in a revival of John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, opening November 13 at Lucille Lortel

Eric Ting  and Caleb Hammons will join Cynthia Flowers as the directors of Soho Rep . Together, they will continue a shared leadership model implemented by Flowers and outgoing directors Sarah Benson and Meropi Peponides.

Broadway Advocacy Coalition will present its second annual Arts in Action Festival September 10th and 11th.

The Week’s Theater Video

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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