Broadway Goes Digital, Again. First Folio at 400. A Marathon of Raunch and Puppetry. #Stageworthy News of the Week

Raunch, regrets and puppets dominated the New York theater that opened this week, sometimes all three in the same show. 

Two different plays told the story of an older man’s reaction to loss – Danny DeVito’s character in “I Need That” reacted to the death of his wife (and a miserable childhood) by hoarding; John Turturro’s character in “Sabbath’s Theater” reacted to the death of his long-time mistress (and a miserable adulthood) by lusting after a friend’s wife and teenage daughter.

Turturro’s character Mickey Sabbath is a retired puppeteer, and the play is one of several newly opened with some form of puppetry on stage – coinciding with the beginning of La MaMa’s annual puppet festival.

Runners had their New York City marathon on Sunday. Theatergoers’ marathon has only just begun. 

November 2023 New York Theater Openings

Theater Quiz for October 2023

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

I Need That 

 Theresa Rebeck’s play about a hoarder is the slightest of comedies. Its plot is paltry. Its insights are fleeting. It promises more laughs than it delivers. It even promises more junk than it delivers: Before the curtain rises, there’s a tantalizing pile-up of old papers and boxes resting on the lip of the stage. But “I Need That” does deliver Danny DeVito, and for some, that will be enough. Full Review 

Sabbath’s Theater

 If I can’t dismiss “Sabbath’s Theater,” it’s largely because of the glimpses of Philip Roth’s mischievous wit, craft and insight that struggle their way through the over-the-top ribaldry, and because of the exceptional three-member cast. I’m less impressed with John Turturro, frankly, than Elizabeth Marvel and Jason Kravits, who portray a total of fourteen characters, including the relatives, old acquaintances, wives and whores who haunt Mickey Sabbath, or whom he betrays. Full Review

Merry Me

 In “Merry Me,” billed as a lesbian sex comedy, a seven-member cast is charming enough to wring laughs out of playwright Hansol Jung’s raunchy effort to queer the canon, in what often feels like a test of how savvy we are culturally, and how with-it we are politically. The heavy borrowing from the classics is a fun game for the cognoscenti, if disjointed and confusing for those without a theater degree. But the gender politics turns smug and ugly.” Full Review 



 “Geoff Sobelle’s FOOD” is not easy to sum up. It wasn’t one thing; it was a journey, an unexpected one: dinner party, history lesson, freak show, parable. My reaction traveled too, from expectant to baffled to amused to amazed to disgusted to inspired to impressed. Full Review

Poor Yella Rednecks

 Poor Yella Rednecks” is not so much a sequel to “Vietgone” as the next episode in the same show. It features the same characters (portrayed by three of the same versatile actors). It has the same cheeky pop approach — hip hop music, kung fu action, comic book style – put together by much the same creative team,[which] worked wonderfully for me then, and it delights me even more now because of an addition to the story, and to the family …Little Man, Quong and Tong’s  five-year-old son, who will grow up to be Qui Nguyen.Delightful, because Little Man is a puppet Full Review 

Pal Joey at Encores! 14 photos, 2 minutes of video highlights and a backhanded appreciation 

 Nosferatu, A 3D Symphony of Horror

 This latest digital theater, livestreamed from the closet in Joshua William Gelb’s East Village apartment, feels as much of a landmark production as the original “Nosferatu,” which was also an experiment in a new medium – F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film, which artfully adapted Brian Stoker’s 19th century novel, “Dracula.”

The Week in New York Theater News

Online Theater Lives!

  1. In its final week on Broadway (November 14-19), Jaja’s African Hair Braiding will also be live streamed, through the League of Live Stream Theater, for $69. It is the first Manhattan Theater Club production to do so, and just the third time on Broadway ever.
    The first two were from Second Stage Theater: “Clyde’s” and “Between Riverside and Crazy

2. The musical “Treason” “cultivated an online fandom for three years before raising the curtain on the show, and are now banking on those fans buying theater tickets, too. It seems to be working. “Treason” is currently on a 27-show tour of Britain that culminates in two performances at London’s largest theater, the 2,286-seater Palladium, on Nov. 21-22.” (NY Times)

Wednesday will mark the 400th anniversary of the First Folio. Published in 1623, seven years after the death of its author, it was the first printed edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays.  “The importance of the First Folio is impossible to exaggerate….Without this landmark collection, 18 of Shakespeare’s plays might have been lost — including “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “As You Like It,” “The Comedy of Errors,” “Julius Caesar,” “Macbeth” and “The Tempest.”(Washington Post)

“The Heart of Rock and Roll,” a new musical,  will open on Broadway April 22, 2024 at theJames Earl Jones Theater. Using the hit songs from the 1980s band Huey Lewis and the New (including “Workin’ For A Livin’,” “Stuck With You,” and “If This Is It,”), the musical tells the story of a Chicago-based musician who gives up his life onstage for a corporate job and meets the girl of his dreams — but his old bandmates want to get back on stage.

The Outsiders, a new musical based on the novel by S.E. Hinton and the movie by Francis Ford Coppola opening April 11 at Broadway’s Bernard Jacobs Theater, announced four of its principal cast members, three of whom are making their Broadway debuts: Brody Grant  in the role of Ponyboy, Sky Lakota-Lynch (who was in Dear Evan Hansen) as Johnny, Brent Comer as Darrel and Jason Schmidt as Sodapop

In the 1983 movie, those characters were played by, respective, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe.

New Festivals

MaxLive 2023: Where is My Body?, November 8 – 11, a festival of music, dance and interactive performance that intersects with technology and science, will take place at National Sawdust and Onyx Studio.

Under The Radar’s new slogan is: Three weekends. 17 shows. 12 venues.Added to the lineup are two works at the Bric: a limited encore of Krymov Lab NYC’s celebrated interpretation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, and Sister Sylvester’s The Eagle and the Tortoise, a collective reading of a book written to be read collectively, and at BAM Fisher, Ukrainian director Igor Golyak’s production of Tadeusz Słobodzianek’s chilling play following ten Polish classmates through eight decades, Our Class

Second Stage Theater’s first-ever Next Stage Festival, will feature the work of early-career playwrights from the end of January to mid-March 202

Helen Shaw on Robert Brustein

When Robert Brustein died, at ninety-six, he concluded not one but four stunning careers. A critic at The New Republic, off and on, for more than forty years, he was a university professor who founded two major theatres—the Yale Repertory Theatre, in New Haven, and the American Repertory Theatre, at Harvard. He authored more than a dozen books and produced hundreds of plays. Along the way, he supported and championed an entire American theatrical pantheon, including the playwrights David Mamet and Suzan-Lori Parks, directors such as Robert Wilson and JoAnne Akalaitis, and actors like Cherry Jones, F. Murray Abraham, and Meryl Streep. He himself was also a playwright…Brustein had a fifth and more ill-defined career, too, as a public intellectual.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

Leave a Reply