February 2017 NY Theater Openings

Broadway this month will see the opening of two starry musical  revivals by two of the reigning composers of musical theater — Stephen Sondheim (86) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (68) — while Off-Broadway pays tribute to Jerry Herman (85) and Kurt Weill (1900-1950), and presents a new musical by John Kander (89.)

Meanwhile, Off-Off Broadway is showcasing the work of one of New York’s hottest musical composers, Dave Malloy (41), best-known for the hit Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812., which also started Off-Off-Broadway.

The month will also see the opening of new plays by (among others) Brandon Jacob-Jenkins, David Mamet,  Tanya Saracho,and  Will Eno, and new productions of plays by Tracy Letts and Wallace Shawn.

Below is a list, organized chronologically by opening date, with descriptions. Each title is linked to a relevant website.

Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple or Blue. Off Off Broadway: Green.
To look at the Spring season as a whole, check out my Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide and my Off Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide

February 1

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Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose (Davenport)

Ed Dixon recounts how he came to know and admire character actor George Rose, who acted with such luminaries as Katherine Hepburn and Noel Coward.

February 8

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Jonah and Otto (Lost Tribe at Theater Row)

Over the course of a single day, two men  – one 26, the other 62; different in every way – share their solitude and unfold their secrets.

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Fade (Primary Stages at Cherry Lane)

A comedy by Tanya Saracho about the burgeoning friendship between Lucia and Abel, two Latinos of Mexican descent working at a ruthless Hollywood studio

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Big River (Encores at City Center)

The Encores concert version of the Tony-winning musical based on Mark Twain’s novel “Huck Finn.”

February 9

The Mother of Invention (Abingdon at June Havoc)

James Lecesne’s unflinching and comedic look at how one family deals with the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Sunset Boulevard (Palace Theatre)

Glenn Close stars in a revival of the 1994 musical based on the 1950 Billy Wilder movie about a faded Hollywood silent film goddess who tries to make one last comeback. This production was seen in a spring 2016 revival in London.

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The Object Lesson (New York Theatre Workshop)

In what’s becoming its signature activity, NYTW has physically transformed their theater once again, this time turning it into a giant storage facility.  allowing audiences to roam and poke through the clutter.

February 10

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Crackskull Row ( Irish Rep)

Rasher Moorigan has a secret that only his mother knows. Tonight  – for the first time in over thirty years – mother and son spend May Eve together in a wreck of a house down the backlanes of Dublin

February 12

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Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: (York)

Kurt Weill’s theater songs are presented in the York’s “Musical in Muftis” series (a short run), in a blend of music and story, spanning twenty years, from Von Hindenburg and Hitler in Germany to Roosevelt and Truman in the U.S.

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Beardo (Pipeline)

Beardo, which takes place in St. John’s Lutheran Church in Greenpoint,  is a “Russian indie rock musical” with music by Dave Malloy ( Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.) “This New York premiere explodes the mad inner workings of Rasputin, the infamous mystic who sexed his way to the fall of the Russian monarchy.”

Ring Twice For Miranda (NY City Center Stage II)

A man known only as Sir rules with a vengeance, but it’s Miranda, a chambermaid, who adds intrigue to his life. When Elliot, the butler, is fired, she flees with him in defiance onto the frightening streets. All must soon make critical decisions with imperfect facts to guide them, since little in their world is as it appears.

February 15

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Man From Nebraska (Second Stage)

A revival of the play by Tracey Letts, directed by David Cromer, starring Reed Birney (The Humans) as Ken, a middle aged man from Nebraska, who suddenly finds he’s lost his faith, along with his sense of purpose. He goes on a wild adventure to find it. Along the way he encounters a world vastly different from his own, filled with chance meetings and romantic encounters that shake him to the core.

February 16

Wallace Shawn, from the National Theater production.

Wallace Shawn, from the National Theater production.

Evening at the Talk House (New Group at  Signature)

The New Group at Signature) by Wallace Shawn with Matthew Broderick, Jill Eikenberry, John Epperson, Larry Pine, Wallace Shawn, Claudia Shear, Annapurna Sriram, Michael Tucker.  Shawn takes on theater itself with this acerbic and stealth political comedy about theater artists who  have a reunion at their old hangout, the Talk House, to reminisce about the show they made a decade ago — except most are no longer theater artists. There’s been “a decline in the theatergoing impulse.”

February 19

On The Exhale (Roundabout)

A play by Martin Zimmerman (Netflix’s Narcos) starring Marin Ireland as a liberal college professor inexplicably drawn to a weapon used in a senseless act of violence.

February 21

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Everybody (Signature)

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s new play is a modern version of Everyman, a famous morality play about Christian salvation from the 15th century. I have no idea what he’s doing with it, but he was very clever in a play called Octoroon, which was his take on an 19th century melodrama, and both provocative and thoughtful in his play Gloria

February 22

If I Forget (Roundabout)

A new play by Steven Levenson (“The Language of Trees,” “The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin”) that tells the story of the bickering reunion of liberal Jewish studies professor Michael Fischer with his two sisters to celebrate their father’s 75th birthday shortly before 9/11.

DC production of Kid Victory

DC production of Kid Victory

Kid Victory (Vineyard)

The latest collaboration between John Kander and Greg Pierce. “Seventeen-year-old Luke returns to his small Kansas town after a wrenching one-year absence. As his friendship grows with the town misfit, Emily, his parents realize that in order to truly find their son, they must confront some unnerving truths about his disappearance.”

February 23

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Sunday in the Park with George (Hudson Theater)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford star in this
transfer of the New York City Center‘s fall 2016 concert version of the Pulitzer-winning Sondheim and Lapine 1984 musical about pointillist painter George Seurat. It marks the re-launching of the Hudson Theater (built in 1903) as the 41st Broadway house.

Linda (MTC at City Center)

Penelope Skinner’s play is about a successful woman whose pitch to change the way the world looks at women of a certain age winds up making her fight for her own relevance.

February 24

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The View UpStairs (Lynn Redgrave Theater)

A young fashion designer from 2017 buys the abandoned space that was the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant ’70s gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

February 26

Dear World (York)

Tyne Daly stars in the York’s “Musical in Mufti” (short run) of Jerry Herman’s musical based on the Madwoman of Chaillot.

February 27

Wakey, Wakey (Signature)

Will Eno’s play “challenges the notion of what really matters and recognizes the importance of life’s simple pleasures.” The downtown playwright  who made his Broadway debut recently with the abstruse The Realistic Joneses has his admirers; I’m not yet one of them.

The Penitent (Atlantic)

A new play by David Mamet. “A renowned psychiatrist is asked to testify on behalf of a young patient. When he refuses, his career, ethics and faith are thrown into question.”

Nibbler (The Amoralists at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre)

A play by Ken Urban that takes place in the summer of 1992 in Medford, New Jersey, when Adam and his gang of friends face life after high school.  But then the fivesome encounter a mysterious visitor from another world, and their lives are forever changed

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Bull In A China Shop (LCT)

A comedy by Bryna Turner that follows Mary Woolley and her partner Jeannette Marks through 40 years in a New England seminary as they reform and revolutionize women’s education at the height of the suffrage movement.

February 28

A Gravediggger’s Lullaby (TACT at Theatre Row)

A new play by Jeff Talbott about the life of Baylen, an honest, hard-working gravedigger who sweats and bleeds to support his small family

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Lula Del Ray Review: Manual Cinema Made on Stage Before Our Eyes

In this opening show at this year’s Under the Radar festival, a Chicago-based theater company with the completely apt name of Manual Cinema allows the audience at the Public Theater to watch a silent film about a lonely, star-gazing girl in the American Southwest of the 1950’s, and simultaneously to watch the making of that film.

The busy cast and crew of Manual Cinema employ the kind of overhead projectors familiar to anyone who has attended public school for a shadow puppet show that uses  cardboard cutouts, paper patterns, and two live actresses, to tell the story of Lula Del Ray. A teenager living alone with her mother in a trailer on a vast field of satellite dishes in the middle of the desert, Lula develops two obsessions – the possibility of space travel, and a country music duo she hears on her scratchy radio, the Baden Brothers.

 

After a fight with her mother, she runs away from home to the big city to find the Baden Brothers. There, she finds a telephone book in a phone booth (clear signs this is a fairy tale of olden times), and visits the address of every “Baden” in it, with no success. Finally, she sees a sign that they are performing at a concert venue. But the concert is sold out. So she goes to the roof, and enters the theater’s duct system, crawling through the tunnel until she spies her idols in their dressing room – discovering they are no more real than…the cardboard cutouts used to depict them. Despite the disappointment, “Lula Del Ray” ends happily, Lula’s other obsession paying off in the long run.

The story is in places lovely and funny and touching, but it is not the reason “Lula Del Ray” has traveled the festival circuit for five years. I’m not sure the story of “Lula Del Ray” would work as a regular film, surely not as a regular silent film, despite the delightful accompaniment by an array of sound effects, and an original score for guitar, cello, and percussion.

The essential charm of the show rests in the marvel of ingenuity on display, the rushing around of the actors and puppeteers and… overhead projector operators, to reproduce manually, on a simple screen placed on stage, the catalogue of modern film techniques – long shots of beautiful sunsets, extreme close-ups of Lula’s expressive face, panning, fade-outs, Dutch angles, tracking shots….Somebody at Manual Cinema clearly went to film school.

Lula Del Ray 

Under the Radar at the Public Theater

Conceived by Julia Miller
Based on original text by Brendan Hill
Designed and Directed by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, and Julia Miller
Original Sound Design by Kyle Vegter with Ben Kauffman
Original Score by Kyle Vegter and Ben Kauffman with Maren Celest, Michael Hilger, and Jacob Winchester
Puppeteers Lizi Breit, Sam Deutsch, Sarah Fornace (Lula del Ray), and Julia Miller (Lula’s Mother)
Music Performed by Maren Celest (Sounds, Vocals), Michael Hilger (Guitar, Percussion, Vocals), Kyle Vegter (Cello, Vocals), and Jacob Winchester (Guitar, Bass)
Running time: 75 minutes
Tickets: $25
Lula Del Ray runs through Saturday, January 14

January 2017 Theater Openings Broadway, Off Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway

Two Broadway shows are opening this month, and fewer than a half dozen Off-Broadway, but January is as usual one of the most robust months for theater in New York.

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Billboards outside the Public Theater advertising Under the Radar, one of the winter theater festivals

That’s because there are more than 100 works of theater at some dozen winter theater festivals, although the shows, largely experimental, each run for only a handful of performances. (Check out my separate preview guide for Winter Theater Festivals in New York 2017)

This month also marks the debut of  the new theater complex at 53rd Street and Tenth Avenue run by the Alliance of Resident Theaters (A.R.T.), now home to a dozen acclaimed New York theater companies without buildings of their own. (See January 22 below for the theaters’ first two openings.)

Below is a list, organized chronologically by opening date, with each title linked to a relevant website. Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple or Blue. Off Off Broadway: Green.

To look at the Spring season as a whole, check out my Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide and my Off Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide.

January 8

Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh

Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh

The Present (Ethel Barrymore)

Cate Blanchett makes her Broadway debut as (once) wealthy widow Anna Petrovna celebrating her 40th birthday in this new play based on Anton Chekhov’s first play Platonov, with the action transposed to the 1990s.

Mark Felt, Superstar (York)

mark-felt-at-yorkA jazzy musical about Mark Felt Deputy Director of the FBI, who revealed himself as Deep Throat, the secret source about Watergate who helped Woodward and Bernstein bring down President Richard Nixon.

 

January 14

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Mope (Ensemble Studio Theater) 

An examination of a country poisoned by toxic masculinity, hiding inside a comedy about guys who do porn.

January 15

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Made in China (59E59)

A topical puppet musical inspired by true events (!): “An isolated woman finds solace in shopping. After one of her big-box sprees, she finds a cry-for-help note, written by a woman in a Chinese labor camp, stuffed in a box of Halloween lights. Inspired into activism, she embarks on an odyssey of global proportions.”

January 17

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The Dork Knight (Abingdon at Dorothy Strelsin Theatre)

Jason O’Connell’s solo show tracing the ups and downs of his life through the prism of his love/hate relationship with the ‘Batman’ movies.

 

January 18

The Tempest

The Tempest (St. Ann’s Warehouse)

Donmar Warehouse’s all female staging of Shakespeare’s play, set in a woman’s prison, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and starring Harriet Walter. This is the last production of a splendidly theatrical trilogy by the same team, starting with Julius Caesar in 2013 and then Henry IV in 2015.

January 19

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Jitney (Samuel J. Friedman)

Broadway premiere of Wilson’s first play, the only work from his The American Century Cycle never previously seen on Broadway. Set in the early 1970’s, the story follows a group of men who drive unlicensed cabs or jitneys.

 

Born to Rise (Medicine Show Theater) 

A revival of the 1984 musical based on four 19th century novels by Horatio Alger, in which four poor but hopeful young New Yorkers make their way up the social ladder

 

January 22

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Peer Gynt & the Norwegian Hapa Band (Ma-Yi at ART/NY Mezzanine Theater)

A rock ‘n’ roll remake of Ibsen’s classic verse drama

 

 

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The Great American Drama (New York Neofuturists at A.R.T./NY Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre)

An ever-changing theatrical experiment to test the validity of the American Dream. Through interviews & surveys, you’ll tell us how you like your theater and what would make you buy a ticket, and four Neo-Futurists will strive to deliver everything demanded of them.

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The Oregon Trail (Fault Line Theatre)

Jane and her family navigate the deadly perils of 1850s frontier life in a covered wagon as part of a game, while present day Jane navigates the different but all-too-real dangers of high school, college, and adulthood

January 23

Selenis Leyva and Dascha Polanco Tell Hector I Miss Him,

Selenis Leyva and Dascha Polanco Tell Hector I Miss Him,

Tell Hector I Miss Him (Atlantic)

The new play by Paolo Lazaro takes place in Puerto Rico,  and “unmasks a community built on the law of respect that keeps getting washed away but refuses to drown.” The cast includes Dascha Polanco and Selenis Leyva, who play Dayanara Diaz and Gloria Mendoza, respectively, in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.

 

January 26

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The Liar (CSC)

David Ives adapts  Pierre Corneille’s 17th Century farce of mistaken identities and secrets, Le Menteur, directed by Michael Kahn. The charming Dorante cannot tell the truth and the manservant Cliton cannot tell a lie

January 31

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Yen (MCC) 

In Anna Jordan’s play,  Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), and Justice Smith (The Get Down) portray two brothers ignored by their mother, who are drawn into a world beyond what they know when their animal-loving neighbor Jenny takes an interest in their dog Taliban.

Winter Theater Festivals in New York 2017

Broadway-style musicals commissioned during World War II by the U.S. Army and staged with current Broadway stars on an old aircraft carrier in the Hudson;  and a do-it-yourself spy thriller at the Brooklyn Museum.

An opera about Mata Hari; and a Latin disco multimedia dance piece about Medea.

An actual exercise class; and a Virtual Reality journey in which the theatergoer becomes the star on stage.

A play celebrating real-life heroines in a repressive European society, and several works signaling warning and resistance to the new U.S. president.

These are some of the theater pieces being presented at the New York theater festivals this month.

chicken2January became the month for theater festivals in the city — more than at any time other than the summer – because of the presence of thousands of members of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters here each year for their convention. But with some of the festivals going back a dozen years, and new ones springing up all the time, they are now welcomed each year anew by local theatergoers, who are more than fine with the experimental, mixed-genre, multimedia approach and international flavor of much of the work. The cheaper ticket prices are nice too: Most are $25 or under; some are free.
Below are a selection of shows from each festival. The festivals are listed chronologically by the date that they start. Click on festival titles and each individual show title for more information.

COIL
January 3 to 22

Twitter feed: @PS122

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Here is a pdf of the Coil brochure, which includes a calendar of performance times.

Now in its 12th year, the Performance Space 122 festival is offering 12 productions from Australia, Belgium, the United Kingdom, but mostly New York City. Only four of the pieces are labeled theater, three of these hybrids with dance or film. But even the theater artists at this festival largely prefer the term performance art

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Cvrtain
Though not considered theater, this ten-minute “interactive experience” may be a glimpse into the future of theater (or one of its futures, anyway.) Theatergoers put on Virtual Reality headset which place them center stage in a theater before an audience of thousands: “Every action produces a different reaction in your audience: thunderous applause…maybe booing.”

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Real Magic
To the sound of looped applause and canned laughter, a group of performers take part in an impossible illusion — part mind-reading feat, part cabaret act, part chaotic game show — in which they are endlessly replaying the moment of defeat and the moment of hope.

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Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster

Australian Nicola Gunn’s story of a man, a woman, a duck and a moral dilemma presents text, rhythmic soundscape and intense physical choreography.

La Medea

La Medea is a musical re-imagining of Euripides’ violent tragedy into a dance-theater performance and feature film á la Latin-disco-pop variety show. Directed, performed, filmed, edited and streamed in real time, the dark comedy comes to life not only as a live performance in Brooklyn but also as a feature film for audiences watching and interacting remotely around the world

UNDER THE RADAR
January 4 to 15

Twitter feed: @UTRFestival

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The 13th annual festival features 21 shows by artists from Belarus, France, Germany, Indonesia, Lebanon, and the UK, but mostly (16) from the U.S.
Five of these are works-in-progress that are part of the third annual “Incoming” festival-within-the-festival by the Public’s Devised Theater Working Group. Most of the shows take place at the Public Theater, the festival’s organizers, but a few are at NYU and the Brooklyn Museum.

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Time of Women
Jan 12-15
Belarus Free Theatre, acclaimed equally for their resistance to the authoritarian regime in their country and for stagecraft that is both cutting-edge and engrossing, presents the story of three women activists of Belarus who were all imprisoned at the time of the fraudulent presidential elections of 2010, celebrating their refusal to be silenced.

Blueprint Specials

Jan 6-11

Laura Osnes and Will Swenson will star in short musicals by the likes of composer Frank Loesser and choreographer José Limón that will be seen for the first time since World War II, when they were commissioned by the U.S. Army to boost morale. They will be presented on the hangar of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, a former aircraft carrier.

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Latin Standards
Jan 11-15
Marga Gomez’s new solo piece revisiting the triumphs and demons of her father Willy Chevalier: comedian, producer, songwriter, Cafe El Pico spokesperson, and prominent figure in the golden era of New York’s Latino variety shows. (Marga Gomez will also be performing in La MaMa’s Squirts; see below.)

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The Fever 

Performed in complete collaboration with the audience, this world-premiere production examines how we assemble, organize and care for the bodies around us

Lula Del Rey
Jan 4-14
Combining puppetry, cinematic techniques, and live country music, Manual Cinema tells the story of lonely adolescent girl living on the outskirts of a vast satellite field who runs away from home and into a world of danger, deception, and disappointment.

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Top Secret International (State 1)
“an immersive installation piece where audiences will explore the Brooklyn Museum’s Egyptian wing”

THE EXPONENTIAL FESTIVAL
January 4 to 31

Twitter feed: @exponentialfest

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The second year of this festival has grown…exponentially. Last year, there were seven shows in four venues in Brooklyn. This year, they are 25 shows in eight Brooklyn venues.

The Last Class: A Jazzercise Play

“Jazzercize is out. Zumba is in. But instructor Kelsea Wiggan is not going down without a fight.” An actual exercise class, but only a select few members of the audience get to exercise, if they want. The rest get to sit in seats (a treat in experimental theater these days.) Written and starring Megan Hill at Chez Bushwick.

[Porto]

A newcomer shakes things up at a neighborhood bar facing gentrification. A new play by Kate Benson (“A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes”) at Bushwick Starr

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Germany 1933
Inspired by the campaign season, the company named Saints of an Unnamed Country, the play “takes place inside a VR world where men chat endlessly with computer programs. These testers reveal their deepest desires to a naive chatbot eager to please. But once a bug at a virtual pizza party reveals the political affiliations of the testers, their digital haven succumbs to the noise of the outside world.” (I didn’t understand this description either.) Performance at The Glove.

 

The Loon

Witness Relocation’s “all new, evening length, knock-down-drag-out, dance/theatre show based in part on “Voices of the Loon” (an educational record released by the Audubon Society in 1980); the work of sociologist Erving Goffman; “At Home” – Bill Bryson’s study of the history of domestic life; party games; and what happens when the festivities go very late into the night/next morning.” Performances at Jack.

Blankland

Boom Bat Gesture performance group presents a mashup of kiddie shows and horror films,  “an immersive environment for an intimate audience of 15” at Vital Joint.

AMERICAN REALNESS
January 5 to 12

Twitter feed: @AmericanRealnes

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Fifteen works, primarily dance, although many are more accurately described as performance art. (Most are more productively sampled via video than described with words.)

Ghost Rings

 

The Planet Eaters: Seconds

This is a Musical

Adult Documentary

Five performers share their real and imagined histories.

 

 

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Carrying Capacity

Mx. Oops / Wendell Cooper performs a multimedia ritual using sound meditation, urban dance, video projection, and rap, within an installation by sculptor Jasmine Murrell;

PROTOTYPE FESTIVAL
January 5 to 15

Twitter feed: @PROTOTYPEfest

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The fifth annual festival presents seven new musicals/indie chamber opera, plus “Out of Bounds,” free performances of three short works in public spaces.

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anatomy theater

“Inspired by actual medical texts from the 17th and 18th century, anatomy theater follows the progression of a convicted murderess from her confession to execution, to denouncement, and finally to dissection, including an anatomy lesson for curious onlookers”

Breaking the Waves

“Based on the film by Lars Von Trier, Breaking the Waves tells the story of Bess, a religious young woman deeply in love with her husband Jan. Bess’s marital vows are tested when Jan is paralyzed in an off-shore oil rig accident.”

matahari

Mata Hari

“an exploration of love and survival of the famous woman whose exploits in espionage took her back and forth across WWI Europe and ultimately made her a scapegoat.”

Silent Voices

Brooklyn Youth Chorus has commissioned a diverse group of artists to create new music that “explores race and identity, inequity and social disparity.”

Funeral Doom Spiritual

Taking place a century in the future, this multimedia concert explores “apocalypse, end times, and rapture found in Negro Spirituals” as well as “futuristic longings for destruction of the white supremacist world order.”

Rev 23

the (newly created) last chapter of the Book of Revelation

Secondary Dominance

In 13 micro-movements in this multimedia concert, Sarah Small “synthesizes genres from Balkan folk to contemporary chamber, industrial, renaissance, rock, rap, and punk, while interweaving live and recorded electronics, Chinese sheng, strings, winds, and densely packed vocals.”

LA MAMA’S SQUIRTS

January 6 to 15

@LaMaMaETC

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Each night of La MaMa’s Squirts features a different inter-generational pairing–six nights of duets. January 6th, for example is Marga Gomez and Patti Harrison.

SPECIAL EFFECTS
January 6 to 8

@pformart

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Four productions (one of them an evening of new plays) by artists who are members of the Contemporary Performance Network and presented at The Wild Project

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What’s Your Problem/A Deep Space Lounge Act

 

I’m Very Into You

A free staged reading of a new play by Sara Lyons about the brief love affair and subsequent (e-mail) correspondence between punk feminist author Kathy Acker met Australian media theorist McKenzie Wark.

THE FIRE THIS TIME FESTIVAL
January 16-31

@firethistimenyc

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Now in its eighth year, this festival is a a platform for new work by rising playwrights of African and African American descent.

You Mine
January 17
Written and directed by Nia Witherspoon.

Set during a water crisis in the final year of Trump’s second term as president, Sayida, a black caregiver accused of murdering a white Alzheimer’s patient is thrust between the nursing home, a South Carolina plantation, and the Haitian Revolution, as she struggles to keep her child alive and her partner out of the custody of the state.

Sister to Sister reading

January 26

Kia and Kara Corthron, sisters who are both acclaimed playwrights, read from their debut novels “The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter,” and “The Truth of Right Now.” A moderated talkback follows.

FRIGID FESTIVAL
February 13 – March 5

Twitter: @FrigidNewYork

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The shows are not yet selected. (The artists are chosen by lottery.)

God of Vengeance Review: Broadway’s First Lesbian Kiss, This Time in Yiddish

God of Vengeance

 

What’s most interesting about the century-old play “God of Vengeance” – and, let’s face it, the reason why a new production of it is opening tonight, at La MaMa – is that it inspired “Indecent,” an Off-Broadway hit by Paula Vogel and Rebecca Taichman that is transferring to Broadway in the Spring. “Indecent,” the backstage story of Sholem Asch’s controversial play, is a sweeping tale taking place on two continents over 50 years, packed full of characters, with deft stagecraft and smartly choreographed musical numbers.

The New Yiddish Rep’s production of “God of Vengeance” itself is not sweeping. There are no musical numbers. This is not the 1922 Broadway production, which was in English and resulted in criminal prosecutions for obscenity, the focus of Vogel’s play. The play at LaMaMa is the Yiddish version that Asch wrote in 1906, “Got Fun Nekome.”

Click on any photograph by Ronald Glassman to see it enlarged.

Yekel (Shane Baker) wants only the best for his daughter Rifkele (Shayna Schmidt) – which is to say, he wants to marry her off to a Talmudic scholar. This is a challenging mission for him, since Yekel owns a brothel. The house of ill repute is actually part of his own home, downstairs from the apartment where he and his wife Sarah (Eleanor Reissa) labor to keep their daughter virginal, apart from his business. It doesn’t work. A downstairs denizen seduces Rifkele — not a whorehouse patron, but one of the prostitutes, Manke (Melissa Weisz.) It might be unfair to use the word seduce, since it’s clear before we even meet Manke that Rifkele is in love with her, and Manke seems too fresh-faced and optimistic to do anything underhanded.

There is much that is fascinating around, and underneath, this play, a glimpse at a different time, place and set of values. Much is made of the Torah that, at the suggestion of Reb Eli (David Mandelbaum), Yekel has commissioned a scribe to create, a show of piety to get him in good with the respectable Jewish community.

With an English translation projected onto the backdrop, one can sit back and enjoy the Yiddish rhythms of a play that debuted in New York right around the corner from La MaMa, at one of the Yiddish theaters that then lined Second Avenue. It’s also intriguing to learn of the varied backgrounds of the New Yiddish Rep’s cast. The trashy blonde harlot Hindel is portrayed by Caraid O’Brien, an Irish-Catholic actress born in the city of Galway. Several actors are also (former) members of the Hasid community.

All this, however, is another way of saying that the New Yiddish Rep’s production of “God of Vengeance” is full of historical, cultural, political, even anthropological interest, but has less to recommend it theatrically. The productions of a century ago were said to be a mix of melodrama and “poetic realism” with “symbolic power” (this from a 1918 essay by Abraham Cahan, editor of The Jewish Daily Forward, which served as an introduction to the printed play.) The 2016 production at La Mama offers only the melodrama. There are some lovely moments, such as, yes, when the two women kiss; and several performers who stand out: Eleanor Reissa, who is also the show’s director, credibly underplays her role as the mother, avoiding stereotype. But the 11-member cast is uneven, and the show has a healthy quota of beating of brow and of breast. And, although the running time is only 95 minutes with no intermission, the three-act play feels longer than it needs to be. They often seem to keep on talking after we’ve gotten the point.

It is probably unfair to blame this all on the New Yiddish Rep, which has done more than its share in reviving and reinventing a lost culture, producing acclaimed Yiddish-language versions of “Waiting for Godot” and “Death of a Salesman,”

Times, and audiences, have certainly changed. Yet, there is some evidence that the play can combine its context with its content so that both are engrossing to a 21st century New York audience. That evidence is “Indecent,” which begins previews at the Cort Theater on April 4th.

God of Vengeance
At La MaMa 74A East 4th
By Sholem Ash
Directed by Eleanor Reissa
Sets and costumes by Vicki Davis. Lighting by Kirk Bookman, Sound by Jesse Freedman. Original score by Billy Martin.
Cast: Shane Baker; David Mandelbaum; Caraid O’Brien, Eleanor Reissa; Rachel Botchan,Shayna Schmidt, Melissa Weisz, Luzer Twersky, Amy Coleman, Mira Kessler and Eli Rosen.
Running time: 95 minutes with no intermission.
Tickets: $36
“God of Vengeance” is on stage through January 22, 2017

December 2016 New York Theater Openings

Four shows are opening on Broadway this month, three of them new musicals: “A Bronx Tale” marks the Broadway debut of Robert De Niro as a “co-director,” although Jerry Zaks is reportedly doing the heavy lifting.  “Dear Evan Hansen,”  a cult hit Off Broadway by the team of Pasek and Paul, is transferring to the Music Box.  And “In Transit,” another Off-Broadway hit, is co-written by Kristin Anderson-Lopez, who went on to compose the music with her husband Bobby Lopez for “Frozen.”

But some of the most thrilling theater in December is happening Off-Broadway — including “Othello” directed by Sam Gold, starring David Oyelowo and Daniel Craig; Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) in an adaptation of the bestseller “Tiny Beautiful Things” directed by Hamilton’s Tommy Kail; and “The Dead, 1904,” starring Boyd Gaines and Kate Burton, a re-creation of the dinner party at the center of James Joyce’s “The Dead,” in which theatergoers are among the dinner guests.

And then, this being December, there are Christmas plays up the wazoo — too numerous to include here.

Below is a selection of the plays, musicals and less easily categorized theater pieces opening in December, organized chronologically by opening date. Each title is linked to a relevant website. Also included are links to buy tickets (if you can’t get them at the box office.)

Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple or Blue. Off Off Broadway: Green.
To look at the season as a whole, check out Broadway Preview Guide 2016-17 and Off-Broadway Fall 2016

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December 1

A Bronx Tale (Longacre)

A Bronx Tale The Musical Pre-opening information; subject to change A Bronx Tale The Musical View More Images Longacre Theatre, (12/01/2016 - ) First Preview: Nov 03, 2016 Total Previews: Opening Date: Dec 01, 2016 Closing Date: Total Performances: Category: Musical, Drama, Original, Broadway A Bronx Tale The Musical tickets Official Website Opening Night Credits Production Staff Theatre Owned / Operated by The Shubert Organization (Philip J. Smith: Chairman; Robert E. Wankel: President) Produced by Tommy Mottola, The Dodgers and Tribeca Productions Book by Chazz Palminteri; Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Glenn Slater; Musical Director: Jonathan Smith; Music arranged by Ron Melrose; Music orchestrated by Doug Besterman Directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks; Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo Scenic Design by Beowulf Boritt; Costume Design by William Ivey Long; Lighting Design by Howell Binkley; Sound Design by Gareth Owen; Hair and Wig Design by Paul Huntley; Make-Up Design by Anne Ford-Coates Musical Supervisor: Ron Melrose Casting: Tara Rubin Casting; Press Representative: Boneau / Bryan-Brown; Fight Coordinator: Robert Westley Cast Richard H. Blake Lorenzo Nick Cordero Sonny Ariana DeBose Jane Lucia Giannetta Rosina Bradley Gibson Tyrone Bobby Conte Thornton Broadway debut Calogero Hudson Loverro Broadway debut Young Calogero Athan Sporek Young Calogero Alternate Gilbert L. Bailey II Joe Barbara Michael Barra Broadway debut Jonathan Brody Ted Brunetti Brittany Conigatti Kaleigh Cronin Trista Dollison David Michael Garry Rory Max Kaplan Dominic Nolfi Christiani Pitts Broadway debut Paul Salvatoriello Broadway debut Joseph J. Simeone Joey Sorge Cary Tedder Kirstin Tucker Swings: Michelle Aravena, Gerald Caesar, Charlie Marcus, Wonu Ogunfowora and Keith WhiteThe Bronx Tale, about a youth in the Bronx who against the wishes of his father gets involved in organized crime,  began life as a one-man show written and performed by Chazz Palminteri. It was then made into 1993 directed by and co-starring Robert De Niro. De Niro is co-directing the musical with Jerry Zaks, marking De Niro’s Broadway directorial debut.

Tickets

Iluminate (New World Stages) 

ILUMINATE 2

Acrobatic dancing by performers wearing glow-in-the-dark costumes

My review of Iluminate  at a previous venue

Tickets

December 3

Sgt. Stubby (St. Lukes Theater)

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Subtitled “The Great American War Dog Musical,” the family-friendly show is inspired by the true story of a stray from New Haven, Connecticut who became a hero in World War I.

Tickets

December 4

Dear Evan Hansen (Music Box)

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A high school student pretends to have been best friends with a classmate who committed suicide in this musical by the songwriters of A Christmas Story: The Musical. This was a cult favorite Off-Broadway.  My review when it was Off-Broadway.

Tickets

The Illusionists (The Palace)

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On Broadway for the third holiday season in a row, The Illusionists will present magic from the early 20th century,

My review the first time around.

Tickets

Sing (Theatre at St. Clements)

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A South African and American Holiday Musical celebration starring and directed by Thula Dumakude.

December 5

The Babylon Line (Lincoln Center)

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A play by Richard Greenberg about a writer from bohemian Greenwich Village who commutes to Levittown to teach a creative writing class that includes one student that reawakens his own artistic impulses. The cast includes Josh Radnor and Elizabeth Reaser.

Tickets 

December 6

Rancho Viejo (Playwrights Horizons) 

Rancho Viejo

In Dan LeFranc’s comedy of anxiety and awkward neighbors, the residents of the (fictional) affluent suburb of Rancho Viejo drift from one gathering to the next, wrestling life’s grandest themes while fending off existential despair — set against the lustful, yearning strains of a distant bolero. The cast includes Mark Blum and Mare Winningham.

December 7

Tiny Beautiful Things (The Public) 

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Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) plays Sugar, an anonymous online advice columnist in a Vardalos’ stage adaptation of the book of the same name by Cheryl Strayed. Directed by Thomas Kail (Hamilton.)

Tickets 

December 8

The Band’s Visit (Atlantic Theater)

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This musical with a book by Itamar Moses (Fortress of Solitude) and music by David Yazbek (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), and directed by David Cromer (Our Town), with a cast including Tony Shalhoub and John Cariani, is an adaptation the 2007 film about an Egyptian Police Band that arrives in Israel to play a concert but is sent by mistake to a remote village in the middle of the desert.

Tickets

Anna Christie (The Wild Project) 

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Eugene O’Neill’s drama of a woman torn between the expectations of men and the secrets of her past, gets a timely retelling under the direction of Peter Roberts.

The Dead, 1904 (Irish Rep)

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Based on the novella by James Joyce, “The Dead,1904 is a new adaptation in which an audience of 40 guests will themselves attend the Misses Morkan’s holiday party, move from room to room with the actors, listen to the music, watch the dances, dine on a meal inspired by the menu in the novella, and observe the characters in their interactions.  The production will take place in an authentic Victorian mansion.” It stars Kate Burton and Boyd Gaines.

December 11

In Transit (Circle in the Square)

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I

Broadway’s first a capella musical — no orchestra — chronicles the intertwining lives of 11 subway riders. It was a  hit Off-Broadway in 2010. Co-written by Kristin Lopez-Anderson, now known for Frozen. Its 16-member cast includes Justin Guarini, Telly Leung and Erin Mackey.

Tickets

December 12

Othello (NY Theatre Workshop)

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Sam Gold directs David Oyelowo (Selma) in the title role and Daniel Craig (Betrayal, Spectre) as Iago in Shakespeare’s tragedy.

Tickets

December 14

Nina Conti In Your Face (Barrow Street Theater) 

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With handcrafted masks that transform audience members into “live puppets,” along with her sidekick, the “foul-mouthed” Monkey, Conti creates a hilarious new show nightly. This is ventriloquism for a new generation

Martin Luther On Trial (The Pearl)

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With Satan as the prosecutor and Luther’s wife for the defense, witnesses including Adolf Hitler, Sigmund Freud, Rabbi Josel, St. Paul, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pope Francis take the stand. Even as 2017 marks 500 years since Luther ignited the Protestant Revolt against Rome, he continues to spark intense debate

December 19

Bright Colors and Bold Patterns (Barrow Street Theatre) 

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A one-man show written by and starring Drew Droege. “Josh and Brennan are about to get married in Palm Springs on a lovely Saturday afternoon. However, the night before becomes a drunken, drug-fueled scream riot, because their friend Gerry has arrived, furious that their invitation says “please refrain from wearing bright colors or bold patterns.”

Homos Review: Urie and de Jesus as Splintered Gay Couple

It might seem as if the creative team behind “Homos, or Everyone in America,” a fabulous and fragmented look at six years of a gay relationship, has put up barriers between the audience and the story in order to see Michael Urie (“Buyer & Cellar,” “Ugly Betty”) and Robin De Jesús (“In The Heights,” “Wicked.”) jump over them.
The two characters, aren’t even given names — the program refers to Urie’s role as The Writer and De Jesús’ as The Academic — and they speak in staccato bursts, rather than full sentences…or, more accurately, they are constantly interrupting one another’s full sentences so that they sound like staccato bursts. And then playwright Jordan Seavey puts scenes from their life together out of chronological order. As if that were not confusing enough, the individual scenes are often sliced into two or more parts, and those parts are spread throughout the show.
Director Mike Donahue enlists set designer Dane Laffrey to turn the Labyrinth Theater into something of a labyrinth, with playing areas no wider than a hallway, with some challenge to audience sightlines, especially if your seat happens to be directly behind one of the big, black columns.
But as it turns out, the experiments in form, language and design – and even that big column — do not get in the way of appreciating what’s strongest about the play: The central relationship is believable, and engrossing. This is in large measure because Michael Urie and Robin De Jesus are terrific actors, and also because the playwright is bluntly honest in exploring the range of emotions involved in any relationship. (which may or may not explain that “Or Everyone in America.”)

Why does the playwright put the scenes out of order?

Perhaps in part because, it’s the way people actually remember a relationship – not in a neat order, but in flashes. It also keeps us attentive, intrigued by the clues, and creates some juxtapositions that offer insights into both the characters’ personalities and into the larger culture and society — as well as some humor.  The play takes place between 2006 and 2011, allowing us to see how much things have changed in a short time, when the characters discuss such issues as marriage equality, or mention social media. They meet through Friendster, which occasions what may be the first of their many casual disagreements, when the Academic calls it a fad.

“Yeah right, everyone thought email was a fad. Friendster’s no fad
Friendster is here to stay…”

“I think friendster’s an early and popular example of what’s bound to be a sprawling lineage of Internet based social networking websites which…”

“No, no, no. Friendster forever. Mark my words.”

What’s most bracing about “Homos, or Everyone in America,” is something that Jordan Seavey could not have anticipated. A gay bashing is a central event in the play. In the annual fundraising announcement for BC/EFA and the Anti-Violence Project at the curtain call on the night I attended, Urie cited a statistic by the Southern Poverty Law Center — there were some 700 “hateful incidents of harassment” within the week after Election Day.

Homos, or Everyone in America

Labyrinth Theater

Written by Jordan Seavey; Directed by Mike Donahue

Set design by Dane Laffrey, lighting design by Scott Zielinski, costume design by Jessica Pabst, sound design by Daniel Kluger,

Cast Aaron Costa Ganis, Robin De Jesús, Stacey Sargeant and Michael Urie

Homos is scheduled to close December 11, 2017

October 2016 Theater Openings

john-goodman-nathan-lane-john-slattery

October is stuffed — to use the title of one of the many shows opening this month. There are seven shows opening on Broadway alone (eight if you count a concert with a week-long run.)  Three are classic plays, a fourth a revival of a beloved musical, a fifth derived from a beloved/classic movie musical.

Off-Broadway, there are revivals of shows by Rent composer Jonathan Larsen,

Holiday InnStudio 54Horton Foote on the centennial of his birth,  and playwright David Hare, as well as a first play by an insult comic (the one who wrote “Stuffed”) and a puppet parody of an old sitcom.

It’s a starry month too, with such familiar faces as Nathan Lane, John Goodman, John Slattery, Jefferson Mays, Holland Taylor and Robert Morse — and they’re all just in one show. Other shows star Diane Lane, Christian Borle, Corbin Bleu, Mary Louise Parker, Andrew Rannells, Rachel Weisz

Below is a selection of the plays, musicals and difficult-to-label theater pieces opening in October, organized chronologically by opening date. Each title is linked to a relevant website.

Color key: Broadway: RedOff Broadway: Purple, blue or black. Off Off Broadway: Green.

For a look at the entire season, check out Broadway Preview Guide 2016-17 and Off Broadway Fall 2016 Guide

October 2

Afterplay (Irish Rep)

Brian Friel revisits the lives of two of Chekhov’s enduring characters- Sonya, Uncle Vanya’s dutiful niece, and Andrey, the downtrodden intellectual brother of The Three Sisters. They meet by chance in a late night cafe in 1920s Moscow

 

October 3

That Golden Girls Show, A Puppet Parody (DR2)

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Miami’s four favorite girls reunite in this live puppet parody of the old TV series.

 

October 5

The Roads to Home (Primary Stages at Cherry Lane)

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A revival of this play by Horton Foote (on the Centennial of his birth) about three women in the 1920s who have all moved to Houston and are now grappling with the eternal question, “What is home?”

October 6

Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical (Studio 54) 

Megan Sikora and Corbin Bleu

Megan Sikora and Corbin Bleu

A stage adaptation of the 1942 film that introduced White Christmas and other Irving Berlin hits.

 

Daddy Issues (Theatre at St. Clements)

Donald, a gay man in the 1980s, hires the ten-year-old kid from downstairs to play his son in order to get his own parents off his back.

October 7

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Stuffed (WP at McGinn/Cazale)

A first play by comedian  Lisa Lampanelli about four women — a bulimic, a compulsive eater, a confident overweight gal, and a chronically thin chick.

October 8

Simon Dawes Becomes a Planet (Access Theatre)

Equal parts fable, music hall panto, and modern farce about a boy born the size of a pea who grows to cosmic proportions.

October 9

Slumber (House of Yes)

A girl squad comprised of elite international circus performers and dancers on the last night of their lives….Who lives? Who dies? You decide.

The Folk Singer (Theatre for the New City)

A new musical about a young musician who wants to write songs as relevant today as those of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were in their heyday

October 10

Oh, Hello (Lyceum) 

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The comedy duo Nick Kroll and John Mulaney portray their alter egos  Gil Faizonand George St. Geegland, “outrageously opinionated, 70-something,  bachelors born and bred in New York.”

 

October 13

Heisenberg (Samuel J. Friedman)

The playwright of A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time penned this play, which debuted Off Broadway last year, starring Mary Louise Parker.  “Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train station, Georgie spots Alex, a much older man, and plants a kiss on his neck. This electric encounter thrusts these two strangers into a fascinating and life-changing game.”

 

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide (The Lynn Redgrave Theater)

The solo show from the Edinburgh Fringe about Gethard’s experiences with mental illness, ethically questionable psychiatry, and finding hope in weird places

October 16

The Cherry Orchard (American Airlines Theater)

John Glover, Diane Lane, Joel Grey

John Glover, Diane Lane, Joel Grey

Diane Lane in Chekhov’s play about “a family on the edge of ruin—and a country on the brink of revolution.”

 

She Stoops to Conquer (TACT at Theatre Row)

The 18th century romantic play by Oliver Goldsmith that pits county manners against city snobbery.

October 18

Sell/Buy/Date (MTC Studio at Stage II)

sarah-jones

Sarah Jones (Bridge & Tunnel) portrays multiple characters in a new show inspired by the real-life experiences of people affected by the sex industry.

 

October 19

Love, Love, Love (RTC’s Laura Pels Theater)

A new play from Mike Bartlett (King Charles III, Cock.)  “London, 1967. Beatlemania is in full effect, the “Me” generation is in its prime and Kenneth and Sandra are in a world of  sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll….But what happens when they have babies of their own.”

 

October 20

The Front Page (Broadhurst)

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Nathan Lane, John Slattery, John Goodman, Jefferson Mays, Sherie Rene Scott, Holland Taylor and Robert Morse star in the fifth Broadway revival of the 1928 comedy about old-time reporters who would do anything for a scoop. Even the supporting cast is hot — Lewis J. Stadlen, Dylan Baker, Micah Stock, Halley Feiffer, et al.

Tick…Tick…Boom (Keen Company at Theatre Row)

A revival of Rent composer Jonathan Larsen’s autobiographical musical, the story of an aspiring composer questioning his life choices on the eve of his thirtieth birthday.

 

Puffs (Elektra)

‘Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic” is a comedy about a young wizard named Wayne Hopkins and the Puffs–a group of well-meaning, loyal rejects with a thing for badgers.

 

October 21

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (Lunt-Fontanne)

The group that inspired “Jersey Boys” (which is closing in January) perform for a week their hits “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Oh, What A Night”

October 23

Plenty (Public Theater)

Rachel Weisz and Corey Stoll star in a revival of David Hare’s play about  Susan Traherne, a fiercely intelligent British secret agent flown into France during the second world war, who has trouble adjusting in the years after the war.

Not That Jewish (New World Stages)

From her show business family in the Bronx, to a WASP wedding, to her first step on a comedy club stage and life as a single mom, Monica Piper shares the milestones and moments that shaped her life with the same signature wit found in her writing on, “Roseanne” and “Mad About You.”

One Flea Spare (Sheen Center)

The 20th anniversary revival of this play by Naomi Wallace set in plague-ravaged 17th-century London, where a wealthy couple is preparing to flee their home when a mysterious sailor and a young girl appear sneaking into their boarded up house. They are all quarantined together for 28 days.

 

October 24

A Life (Playwrights Horizons)

After another breakup, Nate resorts to astrology. In this new play by Adam Bock,  “the answer he receives, when it comes, is shockingly obvious — and totally unpredictable.”

 

The Harvest (Lincoln Center Theater)

A new play by Samuel D. Hunter (The Whale) about a Mormon missionary who has bought a one-way ticket to the Middle East, but is confronted by his sister, who doesn’t want him to leave.

 

October 25

Vietgone (MTC City Center)

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The award-winning play by Qui Nguyen is a love story about a boy and girl who are refugees from the Vietnam War newly settled in a relocation camp inside Middle America.

 

October 27

Falsettos (Walter Kerr Theater)

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A revival of the 1992 Tony-winning musical about a middle-aged man named Marvin and his decision to leave his wife, Trina, for a man, Whizzer. “Falsettos” combined two early Off-Broadway musicals, the 1981 “March of the Falsettos,”  and the 1990 “Falsettoland.” The new production stars Christian Borle, Stephanie J. Block, Andrew Rannells, and Brandon Uranowitz.

 

The Babies (St. Lukes)

A musical about babies from the womb to preschool; “they sing and dance and tell you what they really think.”

 

Duat (Soho Rep at the Connelly)

“Two halves of a soul hunt through a hall of records.
A librarian breaks the seal of a mysterious archive.
A teacher and her class prepare the pageant to end all pageants.”

 

October 30

Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Booth Theatre)

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Janet McTeer and Liev Schreiber star in a production from the Donmar Warehouse of the 1985 play about sexual intrigue in 18th century France.

Coriolanus (Red Bull at Barrow Street)

Shakespeare’s play, with some special relevance –” Economic inequality strains the social fabric. Debates rage throughout a nation riddled with dissension and distrust. It’s election year in Rome, 493 B.C.E., and as unscrupulous politicians manipulate public opinion, the hypocrisy and humiliation of political campaigns drive away the country’s finest….” — featuring a cast that includes the incomparable Patrick Page.

5 Guys Chillin’ Review: Cautionary Tales at Drug-Fueled Gay Sex Party

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Elliot Hadley and Cesare Scarpone

There are two ways to take “5 Guys Chillin’,” Peter Darney’s play in the Fringe Encore series that takes place among five half-naked gay characters at a drug-fueled sex party. One is as a seductive entertainment in which fit young performers are dancing and smiling and snuggling and generally seem to be having fun, at least initially. The Soho Playhouse even permits the audience to bring in drinks from the downstairs Huron Club.

The other is as something of a public service announcement by writer and director Peter Darney, who, like the Larry Kramer of his generation, is warning members of the gay community about self-destructive excess. Each member of the audience is handed a package of condoms as they enter the theater.

Darney’s evident intent is to have you react to “5 Guys Chillin’” as both an entertainment and as a powerful – and graphic — cautionary tale. The combination can feel awkward at times, and unrealistic. At first blush, it might seem odd that the characters spend much more of their time talking about past practices and experiences rather than, um, making new ones. There is a scene near the end of the play that could come off as downright ludicrous. One of the characters has just gone into a drug-induced fit and become unconscious; the others sit nearby ignoring him and launching into a series of monologues about dangerous or disappointing encounters they have had in the past.

It is important to know, however, that, according to the playwright, every word the characters utter is true, taken from interviews he conducted with people he met on Grindr and other social media apps who are involved in the chemsex subculture. (which is one of the terms helpfully defined in a glossary included in the program.) The (true) stories they tell bluntly impart a lot of information  – about the type of drugs and sexual practices involved, the rules of etiquette of the parties, the racial attitudes of the participants, the varied ways and reasons they got drawn in.

The knowledge that everything the characters say is verbatim (albeit edited) from actual people  adds an extra layer of alarm and revulsion at some of the comments: “I like having sex with guys that have Gonorrhea, ‘cause it’s the best lube in the world.”

That line is given to the character R, who is portrayed by Elliot Hadley, one of the five brave and persuasive performers – and one of the cast members who are holdovers from the production at the Edinburgh Festival in August. Another is Adi Chugh, who portrays PJ, the one newcomer to the party (which is one of the ways the playwright tries to justify all the talk of past sex party experience; the other characters are explaining themselves to the newcomer.) PJ is probably the most memorable character. He is of Pakistani descent, in an arranged marriage to a woman from a small Pakistani village, the father of one son and another on the way. “I’m a Pakistani male from a very traditional family, it’s never gonna be accepted, you know? There’s a part of me that…I will never like myself.” When he first started going to sex parties, “I remember I would always feel a little bit embarrassed, and disgusted at myself. But that was also the bit that I liked. I wanted it to match how I felt inside. A little bit disgusted at myself. A little bit ashamed.”

It is PJ that overdoses in “5 Guys Chillin’” It soon becomes clear that the other characters are ignoring his unconscious body not from some flaw in the writing, but as the playwright’s deliberate comment on one of the insidious products of the chemsex scene — indifference.

 

5 Guys Chillin’ runs through October 9, 2016 as part of the Fringe Encore Series at Soho Playhouse.

Written and directed by Peter Darney

Lighting design by Sherry Coenen, movement director Chris Cuming, sound design by Jo Walker

Cast: Rick Yale as J, Cesare Scarpone as M, Elliot Hadley as R, Richard De Lisle as B, Adi Chugh as PJ

Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission

 

Tickets: $45

2016 NYIT Award Winners: Off-Off Broadway’s Finest

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“The Golfer” and “Broken Bone Bathtub” (pictured) were among the big winners of the 2016 New York Innovative Theatre Awards, which honor excellence Off-Off Broadway.
Complete list of winners:
OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE
The Golfer

The Golfer

** The Golfer, Gemini CollisionWorks

Fred Backus, Broderick Ballantyne, Rebecca Gray Davis, Lex Friedman, Ian W. Hill, Bob Laine, Matthew Napoli, Timothy McCown Reynolds, Alyssa Simon, Anna Stefanic
Connected, Project Y Theatre Company
Gus Birney, Joachim Boyle, Robby Clater, Ella Dershowitz, Midori Francis, Dana Jacks, Thomas Muccioli, Aria Shahghasemi
Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey, Life Jacket Theatre Company
Andrew Dawson, Phil Gillen, Aidan Sank
Street Theater, TOSOS
Tim Abrams, Chris Andersson, Christopher Borg, Éilis Cahill, Jonathan Cedano, Desmond Dutcher, Russell Jordan, Josh Kenney, Jeremy Lawrence, Michael Lynch, Joe MacDougall, Rebecca Nyahay, Patrick Porter, & Ben Strothmann
The Further Adventures Of…, TOSOS
Tim Burke, Mark Finley, & Jamie Heinlein
Unity (1918), Project: Theater
Wendy Bagger, Alicia Dawn Bullen, Jessi Blue Gormezano, Doug Harris, Beth Ann Hopkins, Joshua Everett Johnson, Joe Jung, Alexandra Perlwitz, Melanie Rey
OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE
**Siobhan O’Loughlin
Broken Bone Bathtub, Elephant Run District
David Carl
David Carl’s Celebrity One Man Hamlet,
Project Y Theatre, PM2 Entertainment and Richard Jordan Productions in associate with Underbelly
Laura Hooper
Crumble, MORA Theater
Peter Michael Marino
Late With Lance!, PM2 Entertainment
Colin Summers
Steve: A Docu-Musical, New York Neo-Futurists
Yolanda K. Wilkinson
Bible Study for Heathens, New York Neo-Futurists
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE
**Timothy McCown Reynolds
The Golfer, Gemini CollisionWorks
Deven Anderson
The Pillowman, Variations Theatre Group
Joseph D. Giardina
Natural Life, T. Schreiber Studio
Alex Grubbs
Utility, The Amoralists
Ryan Johnston
Harper Regan, T. Schreiber Studio
Mike Phillips Gomez
Harper Regan, T. Schreiber Studio
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE
**Midori Francis
Connected, Project Y Theatre Company
Kelly Barbarito
A Chorus Line, The Secret Theatre
Adrian Grace Bumpas
A Chorus Line, The Secret Theatre
Anwen Darcy
Romeo And Juliet, The Drilling Company
Noelle McGrath
Natural Life, T. Schreiber Studio
Lauren Nordvig
Rush, Team Awesome Robot
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A LEAD ROLE
**Fred Backus
The Golfer, Gemini CollisionWorks
Adam Belvo
Butcher Holler Here We Come, Aztec Economy
Dave Klasko
Gordy Crashes, Ricochet Collective
Lee Slobotkin
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Astoria Performing Arts Center
Charles Socarides
How to Live on Earth, Colt Coeur
Jonny Stein
A Chorus Line, The Secret Theatre
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A LEAD ROLE
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Maeve Yore

**Maeve Yore

Harper Regan, T. Schreiber Studio
Becca Andrews
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Astoria Performing Arts Center
Holly Heiser
Natural Life, T. Schreiber Studio
Christina Elise Perry
Wait Until Dark, Variations Theatre Group
Geena Quintos
A Chorus Line, The Secret Theatre
Vanessa Vaché
Utility, The Amoralists
OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY/MOVEMENT
**Becky Baumwoll
Above Below, Broken Box Mime Theater
Corrie Blissit
In the Soundless Awe, New Light Theater Project
Nikita Chaudhry& Ian Fields Stewart
Untameable, The Unsoft War and Highly Impractical Theatre
Patrice Miller
City of Glass, Untitled Theater Co. #61
Katie Proulx
Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey, Life Jacket Theatre Company
Geena Quintos
A Chorus Line, The Secret Theatre
OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR
**Fritz Brekeller
Composure, WorkShop Theater Company
Michael Bello
In the Heights, The Gallery Players
Kirk Gostkowski& John Arthur Long
Wait Until Dark, Variations Theatre Group
Ian Harkins
She Stoops To Conquer, Hudson Warehouse
Travis Russ
Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey, Life Jacket Theatre Company
Terry Schreiber
Harper Regan, T. Schreiber Studio
OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN
**Aaron Gonzalez
Wait Until Dark, Variations Theatre Group
Chelsie McPhilimy
Rush, Team Awesome Robot
John Narun
Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey, Life Jacket Theatre Company
Kia Rogers
Rizing, Flux Theatre Ensemble
Govin Ruben
Exposure, Next In Line Productions LLC
Serena Wong
Gordy Crashes, Ricochet Collective
OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN
**Kaitlyn Elizabeth Day
The Golfer, Gemini CollisionWorks
Mary Cann
Hot L Baltimore, T. Schreiber Studio
Viviane Galloway
A Little Night Music, Theater 2020
Jennifer A. Jacob
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Astoria Performing Arts Center
Emily Rose Parman
She Stoops To Conquer, Hudson Warehouse
Ashley Soliman
Fatty Fatty No Friends, Mind The Art Entertainment
OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN
**George Allison
Hot L Baltimore, T. Schreiber Studio
Aaron Gonzalez
Wait Until Dark, Variations Theatre Group
Jennifer Neads
Rush, Team Awesome Robot
Kate Noll
Gordy Crashes, Ricochet Collective
Travis Russ & Carl Vorwerk
Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey, Life Jacket Theatre Company
Sandy Yaklin
Office Politics, One Wild Jew Productions
OUTSTANDING SOUND DESIGN
**Joe Jung& KJ Sanchez
Unity (1918), Project: Theater
Andy Evan Cohen
In the Soundless Awe, New Light Theater Project
M.L. Dogg
How to Live on Earth, Colt Coeur
Ian W. Hill
The Golfer, Gemini CollisionWorks
Matt Sherwin
Gluten!, Adjusted Realists
Mark Van Hare
Gordy Crashes, Ricochet Collective
OUTSTANDING INNOVATIVE DESIGN
**Berit Johnson
(Props Design)
The Golfer, Gemini CollisionWorks
Andy Evan Cohen
(Video Design)
Natural Life, T. Schreiber Studio
Aaron Gonzalez & David Rey
(Projection Design)
The Pillowman, Variations Theatre Group
John Narun
(Projection Design)
Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey, Life Jacket Theatre Company
Gil Sperling
(Video Design)
City of Glass, Untitled Theater Co. #61
Lynda White
(Mask Design)
The Bacchae, The Faux-Real Theatre Company in association with LaMaMa ETC
OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL MUSIC
**Matt Sherwin
Gluten!, Adjusted Realists
Christian De Gré
Fatty Fatty No Friends, Mind The Art Entertainment
Jonathan Elliott,Mark Greenfield,Tony Naumovski& Emily Serotta
The Bacchae, The Faux-Real Theatre Company in association with LaMaMa ETC
James Brandon Lewis
Dvorak In America, GOH Productions
Ryan McCurdy
Rush, Team Awesome Robot
Anna Stefanic
The Golfer, Gemini CollisionWorks
OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL SHORT SCRIPT
**Kim Katzberg
Strays, Kim Katzberg in collaboration with Nora Woolley and Raquel Cion
Keelay Gipson
Time in the Penn, The Fire This Time Festival
Ayun Halliday
Fawnbook, Gemini CollisionWorks
Jiréh Breon Holder
God Will Know The Difference, The Fire This Time Festival
Roger Q. Mason
Hard Palate, The Fire This Time Festival
Siobhan O’Loughlin
Broken Bone Bathtub, Elephant Run District
Christopher Torres
We Come Here as part of Astoria Stories, Astoria Performing Arts Center
Kathleen Warnock
The Further Adventures Of…, TOSOS
OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL FULL-LENGTH SCRIPT
**Scott C. Sickles
Composure, WorkShop Theater Company
Jamal Abdunnasir, Tim Craig, Peregrine Heard, Lauren LaRocca, Emily Stout,Beatrice Vena, & Ayana Wilson
Black Protagonist, The Associates Theater Ensemble
Niki Hatzidis& Anastasia Rutkowski
Steel Birds, manhattan theatre source’s Estrogenius Festival
Lia Romeo
Connected, Project Y Theatre Company
Emily Schwend
Utility, The Amoralists
Seanie Sugrue
One Way To Pluto!, Locked In The Attic Productions
Colin Summers
Steve: A Docu-Musical, New York Neo-Futurists
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE ART PRODUCTION
**Above Below
Broken Box Mime Theater
Broken Bone Bathtub
Elephant Run District
City of Glass
Untitled Theater Co. #61
Electronic City
The New Stage Theatre Company
Nord Hausen Fly Robot: (Invisible Republic #3)
Gemini CollisionWorks
War of the Worlds
Radiotheatre
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL
**Steve: A Docu-Musical
New York Neo-Futurists
A Chorus Line
The Secret Theatre
A Little Night Music
Theater 2020
Fatty Fatty No Friends
Mind The Art Entertainment
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Astoria Performing Arts Center
The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit
WorkShop Theater Company
OUTSTANDING PREMIERE PRODUCTION OF A PLAY
**Utility
The Amoralists
Composure
WorkShop Theater Company
Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey
Life Jacket Theatre Company
Natural Life
T. Schreiber Studio
One Way To Pluto!
Locked In The Attic Productions
Steel Birds
manhattan theatre source’s Estrogenius Festival
OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A PLAY
**Street Theater
TOSOS
Connected
Project Y Theatre Company
Harper Regan
T. Schreiber Studio
Hot L Baltimore
T. Schreiber Studio
Unity (1918)
Project: Theater
Wait Until Dark
Variations Theatre Group

Special Awards:

2016 Ellen Stewart Award
The Fringe NYC
Carmelita Tropicana

Carmelita Tropicana

2016 Artistic Achievement Award
Carmelita Tropicana
2016 Caffe Cino Fellowship Award
New Stage Theatre Company
Outstanding Stage Manager Award
Jodi Witherell

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