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Sweat wins Pulitzer Prize in Drama 2017; Hilton Als Wins Criticism Pulitzer

Lynn Nottage has won her second Pulitzer Prize in Drama for the play Sweat.

 

Hilton Als, the theater critic for the New Yorker, has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism

The citation for Nottage’s Sweat reads:

“For a nuanced yet powerful drama that reminds audiences of the stacked deck still facing workers searching for the American dream.”

My review of Sweat:

Like Grapes of Wrath, Lynn Nottage’s Sweat offers a devastating look at social and economic breakdown, told not with rants or statistics, but through a riveting tale about good people in a bad situation.  The characters in Sweat live in Reading, Pennsylvania, which 2010 U.S. Census data identified as the poorest city in America.

Nottage was a previous winner, in 2009, for her play “Ruined.”

The finalists for the Drama Pulitzer were

A 24-Decade History of Popular Music

The citation for Hilton Als reads:
“For bold and original reviews that strove to put stage dramas within a real-world cultural context, particularly the shifting landscape of gender, sexuality and race.”
Walter Kerr was the last theater critic before Hilton Als to win the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, in 1978, and indeed only the second theater critic since the category of criticism was created in 1973. (In that time, six TV critics won.)
“For the drama prize, a jury, usually composed of three critics, one academic and one playwright, attends plays both in New York and the regional theaters. The award in drama goes to a playwright but production of the play as well as script are taken into account.”

This year the jury for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama was:

Elysa Gardner (Chair)

(former) Entertainment Critic, USA Today

Annie Baker* (a Pulitzer winning playwright herself)

Playwright, New York, NY

Jesse Green

Theater Critic and Contributing Editor, New York (soon to be the co-chief theater critic at the New York Times)

Jonathan Kalb

Professor of Theatre, Hunter College, CUNY

Wendy Rosenfield

Theater Critic, Philadelphia Inquirer (now editor of Broad Street Review)

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Below is the complete list of prior Pulitzer Drama winners, with links to their citations (Since 1983, the Pulitzers have made public the finalists, which has become its own form of accolade.)

2016

Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda

“A landmark American musical about the gifted and self-destructive founding father whose story becomes both contemporary and irresistible”
2015

Between Riverside and Crazy, by Stephen Adly Guirgis

A nuanced, beautifully written play about a retired police officer faced with eviction that uses dark comedy to confront questions of life and death.

Finalists:

2014

The Flick, by Annie Baker

A thoughtful drama with well-crafted characters that focuses on three employees of a Massachusetts art-house movie theater, rendering lives rarely seen on the stage.

Finalists:

2013

Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar

A moving play that depicts a successful corporate lawyer painfully forced to consider why he has for so long camouflaged his Pakistani Muslim heritage.

2012

Water by the Spoonful, by Quiara Alegría Hudes

An imaginative play about the search for meaning by a returning Iraq war veteran working in a sandwich shop in his hometown of Philadelphia.

2011

Clybourne Park, by Bruce Norris

For “Clybourne Park,” a powerful work whose memorable characters speak in witty and perceptive ways to America’s sometimes toxic struggle with race and class consciousness.

2010

Next to Normal, by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey

A powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals.

2009

Ruined, by Lynn Nottage

A searing drama set in chaotic Congo that compels audiences to face the horror of wartime rape and brutality while still finding affirmation of life and hope amid hopelessness.

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Sweat on Broadway: A Timely Look at American Desperation

Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat,” opens tonight at Studio 54, marking the Pulitzer-winning playwright’s Broadway debut, as well as that  of five of its nine cast members.  It is opening less than five months after its debut Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in November. The creative team and the production are largely the same, as are eight of the nine cast members; the newcomer is Alison Wright, who is best-known as Martha in the FX TV series, The Americans. She portrays Jessie (pictured at far left in the photograph above). The photographs on this page are of the Broadway production. Below is my review of “Sweat” when it opened at the Public Theater:

 Like Grapes of Wrath, Lynn Nottage’s Sweat offers a devastating look at social and economic breakdown, told not with rants or statistics, but through a riveting tale about good people in a bad situation.  The characters in Sweat live in Reading, Pennsylvania, which 2010 U.S. Census data identified as the poorest city in America.

They are current, former and (they fully expect) future employees of a local factory, and they hang out together in a neighborhood bar, where most  of the play takes place.

But Sweat begins in what looks like a dark prison, with a parole officer talking to a young sullen white man, Jason, whose face is covered with white supremacist tattoos.  Then, separately, the parole officer talks to a young black man, Chris, also recently released from prison. It is 2008,  Jason and Chris are connected in some way, and we are left with a question: What happened?

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.

The scene shifts to the bar in 2000, and we see that Chris and a boyish, clean-faced Jason (with no tattoos) are fast friends, as are their mothers, Tracey and Cynthia. The question becomes: How did this change?  It’s a crafty set-up, because the question doesn’t just pique our curiosity and create suspense; it’s the heart of the play thematically as well. As Jason puts it later, “How the f… did this happen?”  How did this solid town – and by extension, a significant swath of the working population in America — implode?   If, as Nottage has said in interviews, they were victims of the “de-industrial revolution,” Sweat isn’t as concerned with answering as in bringing us into the world of her credible, engaging characters, embodied by a terrific cast.

The play is the product of Nottage’s extensive field research (as was her Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined, and as was John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.) But it never feels like research.

Unlike the Joads, the group of people in Sweat are not all related by blood; they have formed a sort of family of friends, across divides of race and ethnicity.  Cynthia, Tracey and a third woman, Jessie, are long-time workers at the Olstead’s factory, and friends for almost as long; they have created a tradition of celebrating their birthdays at the bar. Stan, the bartender, worked for 28 years at Olstead’s, until a workplace injury forced him out of his job. He knows and likes everybody, and the feeling is mutual.

There are hints of tension from the get-go. For one, Cynthia is estranged from her husband (and Chris’s father) Brucie; he is part of a long and fruitless union-organized fight against a different factory, and has turned to drugs for relief.  And then everybody is treated amiably except the other employee of the bar, Oscar, who might as well be invisible.  In a nice example of director Kate Whoriskey’s attention to telling details, while the others chat away and ignore him, Oscar silently crawls under the tables in order to scrape gum off the bottom.

But the strains between some of the characters are the exceptions; there is a feeling of general comity – until it is shattered when the company starts making clear its ominous plans for cost reductions.

What might have been under the surface all along, explodes into envy, resentment and prejudice, fanned by the plant’s divisive actions. Oscar, of Latino descent, shows Tracey a flyer from the company, written in Spanish, advertising job openings (at lower pay.)

“I’m not prejudice…I’m cool with everyone” Tracey says. “But, I mean… C’mon… you guys coming over here, you can get a job faster than…”

“I was born here,” Oscar interrupts.

“Still,” Tracey says, “you wasn’t born here, Berks” – the county where Reading is located.

“Yeah, I was.”

The exchange lands perfectly, thanks to the in-your-face performance  by Broadway veteran Johanna Day (Proof, August: Osage County, You Can’t Take It With You) as Tracey, and the winning mix of diffidence and determination by Carlo Alban as Oscar.

Michelle Wilson is equally effective as Cynthia, who is given a suspiciously-timed promotion that makes her the enemy in the eyes of her friends, and tears her apart.

Will Pullen, who was frighteningly believable as the bully in Punk Rock,  is spectacular once again as Jason, switching back and forth between the eager innocent of 2000 and the deflated loser of 2008.

Khris Davis, who made an impressive New York stage debut in an intense performance as the first black boxing champ in The Royale, here appropriately scales it back as Chris, a bright young man saving up money to go to college, trying to escape what everybody else accepts as predestined.

James Colby as Stan gives a performance that grows in power, and winds up central to Sweat’s ending. It’s an ending that may or may not stand as a metaphor for what’s happening in America, but is guaranteed to make you cry.

Sweat
Studio 54

Production Staff
Theatre Owned / Operated by Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes: Artistic Director/CEO; Julia C. Levy: Executive Director; Sydney Beers: General Manager; Steve Dow: Chief Administrative Officer)
Produced by Stuart Thompson and Louise Gund
Co-commissioned by Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Arena Stage (Molly Smith, Artistic Director; Edgar Dobie, Executive Director); Produced off-Broadway by The Public Theater (Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director; Patrick Willingham, Executive Director)
Written by Lynn Nottage; Original Music by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen
Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Scenic Design by John Lee Beatty; Costume Design by Jennifer Moeller; Lighting Design by Peter Kaczorowski; Sound Design by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen; Projection Design by Jeff Sugg
General Manager: Thompson Turner Productions; Company Manager: Daniel Hoyos
Production Manager: Aurora Productions; Production Stage Manager: Donald Fried
Press Representative: Boneau / Bryan-Brown; Advertising: SPOTCo, Inc.
Cast
Carlo Albán Broadway debut as Oscar; James Colby as Stan; Khris Davis Broadway debut as Chris; Johanna Day  as Tracey; John Earl Jelks as Brucie. Will Pullen Broadway debut as Jason; Lance Coadie Williams Broadway debut as Evan; Michelle Wilson as Cynthia; Alison Wright Broadway debut as Jessie
Understudies: Benton Greene (Brucie, Chris, Evan), Hunter Hoffman (Jason), Steve Key (Stan), Deirdre Madigan (Jessie, Tracey), Lisa Renee Pitts (Cynthia) and Reza Salazar (Oscar)

Running time: 2 hours and 25 minutes.

Tickets: $59 to $149

Watch BroadwayCon 2017. Visa Ban vs. Artists. Hamilton at Super Bowl, Week in NY Theater

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Scenes from BroadwayCon 2017

Previews of Anastasia, Amelia, Come From Away, Significant Other etc.; A surprise Q and A with Lin-Manuel Miranda via live video from London, followed by the introduction of the new Hamilton cast; a panel on actors and activism. These were among some 200 activities at BroadwayCon 2017, the second annual theater fan convention, held over the long weekend at the Javits Center. There’s no summing up,(except maybe the comment from an organizer who said: “It’s been a tough week. This is a safe space.”) Here are some snippets, including videos of Josh Groban (Great Comet), Jordan Fisher (Hamilton), Broadway for Black Lives Matter founder Amber Iman, and Broadwaycon fans beating up fighting directors.

I learned everything I could (about Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the roof) then threw it all out — Danny Burstein

I grew up naive in the South. Theater has helped me grow up in so many ways. My favorite role has been South Pacific; I became this blonde white girl vessel for what racism can look like  — Kelli O’Hara

“The best thing about theater is that it teaches empathy” – Laura Dreyfuss, Dear Evan Hansen panel,

“It’s your heart. You will find your way to activism, however big or small”~ Tina Landau, co-founder of The Ghostlight Project

Director Diane Paulus’s advice to other directors: Follow your passion. Ask big questions. Break the rules. Change the form.

As a performer, I'm more comfortable when a cast is diverse. But I have no power to make it happen - Bebe Neuwirth, Broadwaycon panel on diversity

As a performer, I’m more comfortable when a cast is diverse. But I have no power to make it happen – Bebe Neuwirth, Broadwaycon panel on diversity

Week in New York Theater Reviews

Kelly Hutchinson and Carson Elrod

Kelly Hutchinson and Carson Elrod

The Liar

In The Liar, the title character wonders whether, given his disposition, he should become a politician. But, if David Ives’ version of Pierre Corneille’s 1644 verse play may benefit from new relevance (what I call the Trump Effect), its main strength lies not in its timeliness or plot but the subversive whimsy of its language….

In his 21st century take on iambic pentameter, Ives rhymes “exit” with “sexted,” “idea” with “diarrhea,” and “muck” with “schmuck.” And he deliberately mangles Shakespeare: “But soft! What light on yonder sidewalk cracks!”

I can’t remember a play in which the playwright so obviously enjoyed his own cleverness, while at the same mocking his efforts

Alexander Flores as Tono and Lisa Ramirez as Mami

Alexander Flores as Tono and Lisa Ramirez as Mami

Tell Hector I Miss Him

Love puzzles, and messes up, the dozen characters in Tell Hector I Miss Him, a play wonderfully acted by a cast that includes veterans of Orange is the New Black. If the play itself sometimes puzzles, and shocks, it also marks a remarkable playwriting debut by 28-year-old Paola Lazaro.
Lazaro’s work is reminiscent of that by Stephen Adly Guirgis and August Wilson in its ability to turn street language into stage poetry, and to shine a warm center spotlight on people who are usually pushed to the edge.

Week in New York Theater News

crying-statue-of-liberty

Trump visa ban complicates plans for Waterwell’s English/Farsi ‘Hamlet’ starring Arian Moayed

Via @PsychToday, the health benefits of the arts & the NEA’s role in wellness efforts. #NEA #artsheal #ArtsCEOLynch https://t.co/hAqKZsiWgp

— AmericansForTheArts (@Americans4Arts) January 30, 2017

hamiltonatsuperbowl

Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones, the actresses who originated the roles of Eliza, Angelica and Peggy Schuyler in “Hamilton,” will reunite to perform “America the Beautiful” during the televised pre game show at the Super Bowl on February 5

hamiltonlotterypage

Beginning Tuesday, Hamilton will double the number of $10 daily digital lottery tickets to 46. Enter the lottery 

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Four terrific playwrights have become new Signature Theater playwrights-in-residence, two of them Pulitzer winners: Stephen Adly Guirgis (Between Riverside and Crazy), Dave Malloy, Dominique Morrisseau (Skeleton Crew) and Lynn Nottage (Sweat.). The presence of Dave Malloy (Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812) means that Signature is delving into musicals

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A musical of Meryl Streep/Ann Hathaway film “The Devil Wears Prada,” with music by Elton John and book by Paul Rudnick, is  planned for Broadway. Perfect! (no details yet.)

johnandrudnick

abby-mueller

Abby Mueller will play Carole King in Beautiful, starting March 7, a role her sister Jessie Mueller originated on Broadway.

muellers950

I interviewed her about the budding Mueller dynasty in 2015. Both her parents are actors. Abby and her three siblings all became actors. At one point recently, Abby was in the Broadway cast of Kinky Boots while her sister Jessie Mueller starred in Beautiful, and her brother Andrew was in the Off-Broadway cast of Peter and the Starcatcher. (Abby’s twin, Matt, was back in Chicago performing in a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor.)

Our whole life, we’ve gotten, ‘Oh, it must be in your genes.’ But it’s probably a mixture of nature and nurture. There are families of doctors and of lawyers and of plumbers. We’re a family of actors.”

Speech & Debate

Speech & Debate, the film version of Stephen Karam’s first hit play will be in movie theaters (and available from iTunes) on April 7th. It features such Broadway luminaries as Lin-Manuel Miranda and Roger Bart and up-and-comers Sarah Steele (The Humans), Darren Criss (Hedwig), Austin P. McKenzie (Spring Awakening), Gideon Glick (forthcoming Significant Other) .

Blind theatergoer sues Hamilton for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, because the musical offers no performances at all with live audio narrative available on headphones. The lawsuit calls for one performance a week.

Ellen’s Stardust Cafe fired 15 more employees (total: 31), including activist in the newly formed union. The owner is being sued for wage theft

The International Human Rights Art Festival at Dixon Place March 3-5

john-hurt

RIP acclaimed British actor John Hurt (Elephant Man, A Man for All Season, Naked Civil Servant, Midnight Express, Harry Potter),77

Theater books of 2016 to read in 2017

Below is a list of theater books published in 2016 (or reissued in paperback this year, or just books I couldn’t resist listing.) I reviewed some of these books or interviewed the authors.  But a few are on my own 2017 reading list.

Click on the titles to find more information and to purchase these books, grouped under four categories: 1. Scripts, 2. Coffee Table Books. 3. History, Biography, Criticism. 4. For Fans.

SCRIPTS

harrypotter-book-cover2

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2

The play, in which Harry is now a 37-year-old man with children of his own,  is a hit in London that producers hope to have on Broadway in 2018. The script sold over 2 million copies in just two days in North America alone, and is the best-selling book — of any genre — in 2016. When’s the last time the script of a play sold so well? The cover of the book fudges the play’s authorship. It is “a new play by Jack Thorne” but it is “based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne,” with Rowling’s name in the biggest font. (John Tiffany is the director.)

lynn-nottage-of-sweat

Sweat

The play by Lynn Nottage, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Ruined,” is transferring to Broadway in the Spring, marking Nottage’s Broadway debut. As I wrote in my review of it at the Public, I compared the play to Grapes of Wrath, in that it offers devastating look at social and economic breakdown, told not with rants or statistics, but through a riveting tale about good people in a bad situation. The characters in Sweat hang out in a bar in Reading, Pennsylvania, which 2010 U.S. Census data identified as the poorest city in America. The script will not be officially published until April, 2017, so I suppose it doesn’t technically belong on this list, but it’s a great read.

Dominique Morisseau

The Detroit Project: Three Plays

Similarly, this collection won’t be published until May. (Don’t be mad; it’s worth the wait.) Dominique Morisseau’s “sweeping examination of the sociopolitical history of Detroit: Detroit ’67, which takes place during the race riots of 1967, Paradise Blue, set in a small jazz club in Detroit’s Blackbottom neighborhood, and Skeleton Crew, which explores an auto plant on the eve of the 2008 financial collapse.”

the-humans-book-cover

The Humans

In Stephen Karam’s Tony-winning play, ending on Broadway in January, everybody is afraid of something. When the Blake family of Scranton, Pennsylvania gathers together for Thanksgiving in the Manhattan apartment into which youngest daughter Brigid  and her boyfriend Richard have just moved, the holiday is punctuated with a variety of bumps and literal thumps, and an expression of middle class anxiety that could be judged now as prescient: “Dontcha think,” the father asks, “it should cost less to be alive?”

hir-book-cover

Hir

Taylor Mac’s absurd, antic, dark, affecting, and very funny family drama is full of subversive bon mots worth savoring in print. The mother of a transgender child uses colorful magnets on the refrigerator to explain “there are no longer two genders. No longer simply a Y and X chromosome but an alphabet of genders. They call it the LGBTTSQQIAA community” – which she pronounces: Lugabuttsqueehah

wishful-drinking-book-cover

Wishful Drinking

Published in 2008, “Wishful Drinking,” a memoir that’s an adaptation of Carrie Fisher’s one-woman show, is worth reading, or re-reading, and not just because of the shocking loss of such an extraordinary wit.

I recommended these two collections of scripts last year, so they too technically don’t belong on this list, but they are worth having and holding from this time forward.

AmericanMusicalsLOA

American Musicals: The Complete Books and Lyrics of 16 Broadway Classics, 1927-1969 (Library of America) is two compact volumes containing the texts (without musical notation) of such tuneful and beloved shows as South Pacific, Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady and Fiddler on the Roof, as well as a previously unpublished musical revue by Irving Berlin and Moss Hart, As Thousands Cheer. Editor Laurence Maslon, a professor of arts at NYU, offers useful background information about each show in the back of the volumes, but the beauty of the collection is its effort to have us see these oft-performed musicals as American literature. (Each volume can be bought separately)

Arthur Miller's complete plays

Arthur Miller’s complete plays

The Collected Plays of Arthur Miller (Library of America) is a three-volume set of Arthur Miller’s plays — 42 in all — the last volume of which was published in 2015.
For those not willing to splurge, the best bet is Volume 1  — Arthur Miller: Collected Plays 1944-1961 (Library of America) –which includes Miller’s most familiar plays, such as Death of A Salesman, The Crucible (which was revived on Broadway in 2016), and A View From the Bridge, as well as All My Sons, Miller’s first hit on Broadway and one of his most frequently produced dramas.

COFFEE TABLE BOOKS

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Hamilton: The Revolution

From my review for American Theatre Magazine: “Hamilton The Revolution…includes the complete libretto, annotated by Lin-Manuel Miranda, alternating with chapters by former critic and Public Theater staff member Jeremy McCarter chronicling the six years it took to make the musical about the “10-dollar Founding Father without a father…It should thrill serious students of musical theatre, whether or not they are matriculated. This is not to say that it is anything close to a scholarly tome; there is not even an index. It’s a book for fans. There are page after page of full-color photographs from the production (many of which form the backdrop for the complete lyrics). As part of the narrative, McCarter profiles members of the cast, the creative team, and others connected to the show, occasionally dipping into the gushing tone of fanzine features. Still, if Hamilton: The Revolution is a souvenir book, it’s one that—like the musical and its creators—is unusually ambitious….”

great-comet-book

The Great Comet: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway

This is another ambitious souvenir book that is a collaboration with the creative team of the musical. It combines the complete libretto by Dave Malloy, with the behind-the-scenes journey, written by Seven Suskin, an author of more than a dozen books on music and theater. In addition, the book includes a CD with three songs from the Off-Broadway production and two recordings for the Broadway production featuring Josh Groban with a 25-piece orchestra.

book-on-broadway_spotco

On Broadway: From Rent to Revolution

From my review: “It wouldn’t be inaccurate to describe On Broadway as somewhere between a vanity publication and an elaborate business card. It offers a look at the advertising campaigns of 90 productions over the 20-year history of advertising firm SpotCo. But it is so well designed that it’s a fun coffee table book, and the short accompanying texts are by a clever selection of Who’s Who in Broadway—and beyond. David Sedaris writes the foreword because, before he became a famous writer, he cleaned offices, including SpotCo’s.”

HISTORY, BIOGRAPHY, CRITICISM

book-the-secret-life-of-the-american-musical_jack-viertel

The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built

This wonderfully readable book by Viertel, an executive at Jujamcyn Theaters (owners of five Broadway houses) and the artistic director of New York City Center Encores! series, offers lessons in the craft derived from a course he developed at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The book focuses on the structure of successful musicals, going chronologically step by step from the overture to the finale. But underneath the rulebook, he is arguing persuasively for the importance of the American musical:“If Shakespeare is England’s national theatre, aren’t Broadway musicals ours?” A final chapter lists his recommendations for the best recordings of the 37 musicals he has analyzed, and for 20 more musicals “that can’t be ignored even though they are not quoted in the book.”

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Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway

One of my selections last year too, it’s now newly in paperback, but this is just an excuse to recommend it again. Michael Riedel, theater columnist for the New York Post since 1998, focuses on the Shubert organization and how they helped bring back the Broadway industry, on the verge of collapse in the 1970s, but Riedel’s history ranges nearly the breadth of the 20th century.

by-women-possessed-book-cover

By Women Possessed: A Life of Eugene O’Neill

When Arthur Gelb and his wife Barbara Gelb wrote their 964-page biography O’Neill in 1962, little was known of the playwright’s personal life. That’s hard to believe given the attention since, including from the Gelbs themselves. Their latest 886-page tome (which they had more or less finished when Arthur Gelb died in 2014), focuses on O’Neill’s later years, and makes extensive use of the diaries of his third wife, Carlotta Monterey. It explores his stormy relationships with his three wives and his mother, who inspired the character of Mary Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Some critics might think By Women Possessed could be shorter, but then again, the Gelbs include O’Neill’s reaction to dismissive critics: “I love every bone in their heads.”

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New York’s Yiddish Theater: From the Bowery to Broadway

Hooked to an exhibition in 2016 at the Museum of the City of New York, and published by Columbia University Press,  this nicely illustrated history book edited by Prof. Edna Nahshon of the Jewish Theological Seminary is what a Times reviewer called  “a scholarly scrapbook” of photographs and essays arguing that the vibrant Yiddish theater of the early 20th century  “served as the meeting place and forum of the Jewish community in America,” grappling with important issues — immigration,  women’s rights, labor relations — and had great influence on the American stage, and American culture. If there had been no Yiddish theater, would we ever have heard of Eddie Cantor, Jerry Lewis, Mel Brooks, Stella Adler, Joan Rivers?

Forgive me for excerpting one morsel: “English-language critics may have poked good-natured fun at the informalities of the immigrant audience, many of whom had not been to the theater before arriving in America, and whose folksy conduct…included munching on food, popping soda bottles, talking among themselves, and treating the theatrical gathering as an occasion for socializing. But uptown visitors also recognized the seriousness and rapt attention the immigrant audience accorded the stage…”

becoming-meryl-streep-book-cover

Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep

This book by New Yorker writer Michael Schulman follows Streep from the beginning of her career as a performer — when she sang at a school concert in New Jersey at the age of 12 (“It was the first time she felt the intoxication of applause”) —  to her first Oscar win for the 1979 film Kramer vs Kramer. It’s too gushy for my taste (and apparently for Streep’s, who didn’t agree to be interviewed for it.) But few other biographies about an actress nominated for a record-breaking 19 Academy Awards are as likely to focus as much on her theater career, including her time spent at the Yale School of Drama.

FOR FANS

This category is a polite way of grouping together books — memoirs, personal essays and books of anecdotes — that you might want to check out (at least check out of the library) if you’re a die-hard fan of the author, or the genre.

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Master of Ceremonies: A Memoir

Joel Grey, he tells us in “Master of Ceremonies,” is “one of only eight people to win both the Tony and the Academy Award for the same role” – in his case the Emcee in “Cabaret.” It’s the role that made him famous, and it is also the only role for which many people know him.

But Grey has more than one story to tell. He is a performer who got his first professional gig, in a straight play at the Cleveland Play House, at age 9, and is still at it as he approaches his 84th birthday, a 75-year career that has included work as a nightclub comic, TV guest star, Broadway song-and-dance man, Hollywood supporting player, and a serious actor. He is also a man who was married for more than two decades, and a father of two (including actress Jennifer Grey), who came out in People Magazine as a gay man just last year. His career and his struggles with his sexuality are the two major threads of his memoir.

My full review of Master of Ceremonies

Cover_Barbara Cook

Then and Now: A Memoir

Barbara Cook, who is now 88 years old – the exact number of keys on a piano – has three distinct stories to tell in her new memoir.

The first is about a poor, unschooled and seriously naive Southern belle from Atlanta with a sad and weird childhood who escaped to New York at 20 and soon became the reigning soprano ingénue on Broadway, originating roles in several celebrated musicals, including The Music Man.

The second describes her descent into alcoholism, depression and over-eating, which, she writes, made her unemployable for years.

The third rejoices in her overcoming her alcoholism (she’s been sober 40 years) and coming back as a sophisticated cabaret, concert and recording artist, a premier interpreter of the Great American Songbook plus Stephen Sondheim

( my full review of Barbara Cook Then and Now)

rules-for-others-to-live-by

Rules for Others to Live By: Comments and Self-Contradictions

This collection of short essays  is by the author of some two dozen plays, including my favorites, the Tony-winning “Take Me Out” and “The Assembled Parties,” as well as “Three Days of Rain,” most notable for who starred in it on Broadway (Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper and Paul Rudd.) In his new book, Richard Greenberg writes from the perspective of a self-declared “Urban Recluse” on life in New York City; about his friends, some of them famous (such as in a section entitled “Several Dead Women of Whom I Was Fond”), but he uses pseudonyms or just first names; and on nothing at all. His shortest essay is a single sentence under the title Cute Idea:
“You know what would be a cool thing to do?” my murderous friend says: “Kill yourself, and in the note, blame it on someone who wronged you in a totally trivial way.”
There’s just a smidgeon of theatrical references, such as his synopsis of The King and I:
A young and very hot king dies because a widowed British schoolmarm, whose main contribution to court life has been to instruct the palace chef that at state dinners he should serve bloody roast beef and a pie that tastes like urine instead of all that horrible Thai food, has said she doesn’t like him anymore.
That’s in his longest essay, entitled On Liking Racist Things.
“Rules for Others to Live By” seems inspired by a similar recent collection by fellow playwright Sarah Ruhl, the delightful  “100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write, which I recommended last year, but Greenberg’s collection is neither as pithy nor as good. Indeed it is excessively uneven, the essays falling into one of two categories, witty in a subversive but satisfying way; or glib, smug, self-satisfied, pointless and/or irritating – reminding you that Greenberg was also the playwright of Breakfast At Tiffany’s and  Our Mother’s Brief Affair.

 

Ken Bloom’s Show and Tell: The New Book of Broadway Anecdotes and Jennifer Tepper’s The Untold Stories of Broadway Volume 1Volume 2 and Volume 3 (with more volumes promised) are collections of Broadway anecdotes, the latest in a long line of such books. I’ll admit these are not my favorite kind of theater book; they’re not useable as reference works (neither reliable nor easily searched), and their randomness makes them less than an unmitigated pleasure to read through.  I’m fine if you disagree; that’s why I include them here.
Tepper’s anecdotes are told in the first person by a variety of theater people (and read like unedited transcripts.) The anecdotes are organized based on the theater in which they occurred. Each theater gets a chapter. Volume 2 has eight theaters, eight chapters. These volumes have no index.
Bloom’s anecdotes are put in chapters focused on specific subject matter, such as “Writing the Show,” “Critics,” “Stunts.” At least “Show & Tell” has an index. The anecdotes are succinct, but also suspect, as Bloom admits, with some charm, in the second sentence of the book: “I can definitively state that all these anecdotes are true, inadvertent lies, or apocryphal.”

Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide

spring-2017-broadway-logo-collage

Yes, Glenn Close, Sally Field, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, Bette Midler, and Cynthia Nixon are all returning to Broadway in Spring 2017, and Cate Blanchett and Danny DeVito are making their Broadway debuts. But Broadway is more than its divas and hunks.

The Spring 2017 season begins with a new play based on Chekhov and ends almost four months later with a new play based on Ibsen. Frequently revived plays by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Lillian Hellman are all back again, while the one play by August Wilson that was never produced on Broadway finally gets there. Pulitzer Prize winning playwrights Lynn Nottage and Paula Vogel make their Broadway debuts with serious new works that were hits Off-Broadway. And the 41st Broadway house is being inaugurated this season with a Sondheim revival.

Or, yet another way to look at the season, three big beloved Broadway musicals are back, and seven new musicals (four of them based on movies) are making their debuts.

Below are the plays and musicals opening on Broadway from January through April, 2017, going chronologically by opening dates. Things are likely to change — additions, subtractions, rescheduling —  in the weeks and months ahead.

JANUARY

the-present-logoThe Present

Theater: Ethel Barrymore
Playwright: Andrew Lipton
Director: John Crowley
First preview: December 17
Opening: January 8, 2017
Closing: March 19
Cast: Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh
A new play based on Anton Chekhov’s Platonov, with the action transposed to the 1990s.

website

Twitter feed: @thepresentbway

Buy tickets to The Present

 

Jitney

jitney-logoTheater: MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman
Playwright: August Wilson
Director: Ruben Santiago-Hudson
First preview: December 28, 2016
Opening: January 19, 2017
website
Tweeter feed: @MTC_NYC

website

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.

Buy tickets to Jitney

February

sunset-boulevard-logoSunset Boulevard

Theater: The Palace
First Preview: February 2, 2017
Opening: February 9, 2017
Written by Christopher Hampton and Don Black (book/lyrics), and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music)
Director: Lonny Price
Cast: Glenn Close
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.

website

@sunsetblvd

Buy tickets to Sunset Boulevard

Sunday in the Park With George

sunday-in-the-park-logoTheater; Hudson
First Preview: February 2, 2017
Opens: February 23

Closes: April 23
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; book by James Lapine
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford
Transfer of the New York City Center‘s fall 2016 concert version of the Pulitzer-winning 1984 musical about pointillist painter George Seurat.

@hudsonbway

website

Buy tickets to Sunday in the Park with George

March

Significant Other

Significant Other logoTheater: Booth

Previews: February 14, 2017
Opens: March 2, 2017
Playwright: Joshua Harmon
Director: Trip Cullman
Cast: Gideon Glick, Barbara Barrie and Lindsay Mendez
Transfer of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2015 Off-Broadway hit about a gay bachelor looking for love in the big city.

@SignificantBway

website

Buy tickets to Significant Other

The Glass Menagerie

glass-menagerie-logoTheater: John Golden
Playwright: Tennessee Williams
Director: Sam Gold
First preview: February 14, 2017
Opening March 9, 2017
Cast: Sally Field, Joe Mantello, Finn Witrock, Madison Ferris
The eighth production of Tennessee Williams play on Broadway.

website

Buy tickets to The Glass Menagerie

Come From Away

come-from-away-logo
Theater: Schoenfeld
Previews: February 18, 2017
Opens: March 12, 2017
Book, music and lyrics by the Canadian husband-and-wife team Irene Sankoff and David Hein.
Director: Christopher Ashley
Cast: Chad Kimball, Jenn Colella, Joel Hatch, Rodney Hicks and Caesar Samayoa.
New musical that explores the lasting connection forged between a group of travelers whose planes were diverted to a small Newfoundland town on Sept. 11, 2001.
The show had its world premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse in summer 2015,

website

@wecomefromaway

Buy tickets to Come From Away

The Price

theprice-logoTheater: Roundabout’s American Airlines
Playwright: Arthur Miller
Director: Terry Kinney
First preview: February 16, 2017
Opening: March 16, 2017
Cast: Danny DeVito, Jessica Hecht, Tony Shalhoub, John Turturro
website
Tweeter feed: @RTC_NYC

website

A revival of the 1968 drama about two estranged brothers who reunite to sell their the remainder of their parents’ estate.

Buy tickets to The Price

Miss Saigon

Miss Saigon logoTheater: Broadway
Previews: March 1, 2017
Opens: March 23, 2017
Written by Claude-Michel Schönberg (music), Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg (lyrics), Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg (book)
Director: Laurence Connor
Cast: Jon Jon Briones and Eva Noblezada
An American soldier named Chris marries Kim in Vietnam before departing for the US. Three years later, he returns to find Kim still alive and raising Tam, a boy he fathered. With the Viet Cong closing in on the city and two women wanting the only place in his heart, Chris has big decisions to make.

@MissSaigonUS

website

Buy tickets to Miss Saigon

Sweat

sweat-logoTheater: Studio 54
First previews: March 4, 2017
Opens: March 26, 2017
Playwright: Lynn Nottage
Director: Kate Whoriskey
Cast: Carlo Albán, James Colby, Khris Davis, Johanna Day, John Earl Jelks, Will Pullen, Miriam Shor, Lance Coadie Williams, and Michelle Wilson
Broadway transfer of the hit Public Theatre production of Nottage’s drama about blue-collar workers in a Pennsylvania town at the turn of the millennium.

Twitter: @SweatBroadway

website

My review of Sweat off-Broadway

Buy tickets to Sweat

APRIL

The Play That Goes Wrong

play-that-goes-wrong-logoTheater: Lyceum
First preview: March 9, 2017
Opens: April 2, 2017
Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Director: Mark Bell
Cast: Matthew Cavendish, Bryony Corrigan, Rob Falconer, Dave Hearn, Henry Lewis, Charlie Russell, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields, Greg Tannahill, and Nancy Zamit.
Olivier Award-winning comedy about an amateur university production that goes hopelessly awry

Twitter: @BwayGoesWrong

website

Buy tickets to The Play That Goes Wrong

Amelie

amelie-logoTheatre: Walter Kerr
First preview: March 9, 2017
Opens: April 3, 2017
Written by Dan Messé (music), Nathan Tyson (lyrics), Craig Lucas (book)
Director: Pam MacKinnon
Cast: Phillipa Soo and Adam Chanler-Berat
A musical adaptation of the  2001 film, which starred Audrey Tautou as a shy waitress with a wild imagination.

@AmelieBroadway

website

Buy tickets to Amelie

Present Laughter

present-laughter-logoTheater: St. James
Target Previews: Early spring 2017
Opening: April 5, 2017
Playwright: Noël Coward
Director: Moritz von Suelpnagel
Cast: Kevin Kline

Revival of the 1940s comedy about the tribulations of a popular matinee idol.

website

@laughteronbway

Buy tickets to Present Laughter

War Paint

war-paint-logo
Theater: Nederlander
Previews: March 7, 2017
Opening: April 6, 2017
Writers: Book by Doug Wrights; music and lyrics by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie
Director: Michael Grief; choreographer: Christopher Gattelli
Cast: Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole
Musical based on the rivalry of cosmetics titans Helena Rubenstein (LuPone) and Elizabeth Arden (Ebersole)
Premiered at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in summer 2016.

website

@warpaintmusical

Buy tickets to War Paint

oslo-logoOslo

Theater: Vivian Beaumont
Previews: March 23, 2017
Opens: April 13, 2017
Playwright: J.T. Rogers
Director: Bartlett Sher
Cast: Jennifer Ehle, Daniel Jenkins, Jefferson Mays and Daniel Oreskes
Transfer of Lincoln Center Theater’s Off-Broadway production of the play about the top-secret, high-level meetings between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization that culminated in the signing of the historic 1993 Oslo Accords.

My review of “Oslo” Off-Broadway

website

@LCTheater

Buy tickets to Oslo

 Groundhog Day

groundhog-day-logoTheater: August Wilson
Previews: March 2017
Opening: April 17, 2017
Music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, book by Danny Rubin
Director: Matthew Warchus
Cast: Andy Karl
A musical adaptation of the 1993 Bill Murray film about a cynical Pittsburgh TV weatherman who is sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, PA, when he finds himself caught in a time loop, forced to repeat the same day again and again…and again. Will he ever unlock the secret and break the cycle?
Produced in London in summer 2016.

website

@Groundhogdaybwy

Buy tickets to Groundhog Day

Six Degrees of Separation

six-degrees-of-separation-logoTheater: Barrymore
Target Opening: April 2017
Playwright: John Guare
Director: Trip Cullman
Cast: Allison Janney and John Benjamin Hickey
Revival of the 1990 drama about a young con man who is embraced by wealthy New Yorkers after passing himself off as Sidney Poitier’s son.

website

@SixDegreesBway

Buy tickets to Six Degrees of Separation

Indecent

indecent-logoTheater: Cort
Opening: April 18, 2017
Playwright: Paula Vogel
Director: Rebecca Taichman
Cast: TBA

A behind-the-scenes look at the true story of the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s “God of Vengeance” — “a play seen by some as a seminal work of Jewish culture, and by others as an act of traitorous libel,” in part because of its lesbian lovers.

My review of Indecent Off-Broadway

website

@IndecentBway

Buy tickets to Indecent

The Little Foxes

Theater: MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman
Playwright: Lillian Hellman
Director: Daniel Sullivan
First preview: March 29, 2017
Opening: April 19, 2017
Closing:
Cast: Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon

The fifth Broadway production of the 1930 drama about a ruthless Southern belle.

website

Buy tickets to The Little Foxes

Hello, Dolly

Hello Dolly logoTheater: Shubert
Authors: Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, book by Michael Stewart
Director: Jerry Zaks, choreographer Warren Carlyle
First preview: March 13, 2017
Opening: April 20, 2017
Closing:
Cast: Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce
website
Tweeter feed: @HelloDollyBway

The fifth Broadway production of the 1964 musical about a matchmaker who sets out to find a match for herself at the turn of the 20th century.

Buy tickets to Hello, Dolly

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory logoTheater: Lunt-Fontanne
First Preview: March 28, 2017
Opening: April 23, 2017
Written by David Greig (book), Marc Shaiman (music & lyrics), Scott Wittman (lyrics), Roald Dahl (novel)
Director: Jack O’Brien
Cast: Christian Borle as Willy Wonka
When Charlie wins a golden ticket to the weird and wonderful Wonka Chocolate Factory, it’s the chance of a lifetime to feast on the sweets he’s always dreamed of. But beyond the gates astonishment awaits, as the five lucky winners discover not everything is as sweet as it seems.

website

@CharlieOnBway

Buy tickets to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Anastasia

anastasia-logoTheater: Broadhurst
First Preview: March 23, 2017
Opening: April 24, 2017
Music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, book by Terrence McNally
Director: Darko Tresnjak
Cast: Christy Altomare, Derek Klana, Ramin Karimloo, Mary Beth Peil, John Bolton, and Caroline O’Connor
Inspired by the 1997 film about a young woman who may be the last surviving member of the Russian royal family. The score includes songs from the movie, including the Oscar- nominated “Journey to the Past,” plus an entirely new score from the Tony Award-winning team.
The musical had its world premiere at Hartford in 2016.

website

@AnastasiaBway

Buy tickets to Anastasia

Bandstand

bandstand-logoTheater: Bernard Jacobs
First Preview: March 31, 2017
Opening: April 26, 2017
Music by Richard Oberacker and book and lyrics by Robert Taylor and Richard Oberacker
Director/Choreographer: Andy Blankenbuhler
Cast: Laura Osnes and Corey Cott
This “big-band musical” chronicles a mismatched band of WWII veterans who join forces to compete in a radio contest.
The show debuted in 2015 at Paper Mill Playhouse

website

@BandstandBway

Buy tickets to Bandstand

A Doll’s House, Part 2

a-dolls-house-logoTheater: Golden
First Preview: April 1, 2017
Opening: April 27, 2017
Playwright: Lucas Hnath
Director: Sam Gold
Cast: Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper, Jayne Houdyshell, Condola Rashad.
Sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s play, following up after Nora has left her husband and children.

website

@DollsHousePart2

Buy tickets to A Doll’s House, Part 2

 

Also check out my monthly calendar of theater openings, which includes Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway.

Full 2016-2017 Broadway season, including my reviews of the shows that have opened.

Off Broadway Fall 2016 Guide

SmithNottageParksDuring the Fall 2016 season, three of the most celebrated playwrights in America are offering some acclaimed plays: Anna Deavere Smith, Lynn Nottage and Suzan-Lori Parks. That the three are black women tells the savvy New York theatergoer that their shows are all Off-Broadway.

OffBroadwaystarsFall2016

David Oyelowo, Daniel Craig, Sutton Foster, Judith Light, Rachel Weisz, Jason Sudeikis, Tony shalhoub

Yes, Off-Broadway can be as starry as Broadway – this season’s shows Off-Broadway will feature David Oyelowo, Daniel Craig and his wife Rachel Weisz (in separate shows), Sutton Foster,, Tony Shalhoub, Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis.

But it’s instructive to realize that the work of Lynn Nottage, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of “Ruined,” has never been on Broadway.  Her award-winning play, “Sweat,”  is set to run this season at the Public Theater.

Similarly, MacArthur “genius” Anna Deavere Smith has been on Broadway only once, for two months, 22 years ago. Smith, who has made her mark in American theater by exhaustively researching one urgent issue after another, putting together solo shows in which she portrays the characters on all sides, has done it again.  Her “Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education” will be performed at Second Stage.

Suzan-Lori Parks, who won the Pulitzer for Top Dog/Underdog is the artist-in-resident this season at the Signature.

TaylorMac1940s

Taylor Mac

There are exciting offerings this season that one cannot imagine fitting on Broadway — Taylor Mac’s “24-Decade History of Popular Music “at St. Ann’s Warehouse; “The Gabriel’s,” Richard Nelson’s three-part series on the effect of the 2016 Presidential election on a single family, at the Public  — and some that one can — the New Group’s revival of “Sweet Charity” and the Irish Rep’s of “Finian’s Rainbow.”

But it’s short-sighted to treat Off-Broadway in the same way as Broadway — as a collection of individual potential hits or misses. (See my Broadway 2016-2017 Preview Guide.)   As most serious theatergoers will tell you,  Off Broadway has far richer, more adventurous and more diverse offerings, at a lower price.  Off-Broadway is also harder to get a handle on —  more spread out,  less publicized, and more numerous; there are  some 200 theaters/theater companies, more than five times the number of Broadway theaters. What’s more, most of the Off-Broadway theaters present entire seasons of (mostly) rewarding shows. These theaters generally offer subscriptions and/or memberships for the season.

That is why I organize my Off-Broadway preview below largely by the theaters in which they are being produced, in order of my preference for these theaters (determined by such factors as their recent track record, the promise of the new season, and by the overall experience I’ve had with the theater.)

Still, I’ve put a red check mark —  — besides a handful of shows opening in the Fall about which I’m especially excited, or intrigued, or at least notably hopeful. This can’t count as a recommendation, because I haven’t seen them yet. A few less promising-looking shows are sure to wind up more satisfying.  Expect to be surprised.

(The asterisk *, explained more fully at the bottom, indicates those theatrical empires that are both on and Off Broadway.)

PLAYWRIGHTS HORIZONS playwrights horizons logo

416 W. 42nd St. Twitter: @PHNYC

Annie Baker’s “The Flick” is one of six plays that originated at Playwrights Horizons that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The theater offers new plays and musicals that are consistently worthwhile, in an environment that feels dedicated both to the theater artists and the theatergoers.

PlaywrightsHorizonsFall2016

Aubergine

August 20 – October 2. Opens September 12.

Julia Cho’s new play focuses on food. A man who shares a bowl of berries, a young woman who falls in love; a mother who prepares a bowl of soup to keep her son from leaving home; and a son who cooks a meal for his dying father.

A Life

September 30 – November 13. Opens October 24.

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.”

Rancho Viejo

November 11 – December 23. Opens December 6.

In Dan LeFranc’s comedy of anxiety and awkward neighbors, the residents 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.

Spring, 2017

The Light Years by the Debate Society

The Profane by Zayd Dohrn

Bella: An American Tall Tale, Book, Music, and Lyrics by Kirsten Childs

THE PUBLIC THEATER

publictheaterlogo425 Lafayette Street. Twitter: @PublicTheaterNY

Having originated both Hamilton and Fun Home, the Public is on a roll, the latest of many in the successful downtown empire that Joe Papp created half a century ago. The Public is so popular these days that members have been complaining that their membership doesn’t guarantee tickets to the Public shows they want to see.

Public Works’ Twelfth Night
September 2-5

Twelfth Night Public Works

Twelfth Night
Public Works

Director Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of Baltimore Center Stage, and songwriter Shaina Taub team up to present this Shakespeare comedy with professional actors such as Jose Lana and Nikki James and some 200 community members.

What Did You Expect?

September 10-October 9

What did you expect gabriels

The second in the three play cycle by Richard Nelson, “The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family.” The first play in the cycle, Hungry, opened March 4, which is the date in which it is set.

Plenty

October 4 – November 6

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.

Sweat

October 18 – November 27

Scene from a previous production of Sweat

Scene from a previous production of Sweat

The much-praised play by Lynn Nottage, getting its New York premiere, about a group of friends who have spent their lives sharing drinks, secrets and laughs while working together on the line of a factory floor. But when layoffs and picket lines begin to chip away at their trust, the friends find themselves pitted against each other in the hard fight to stay afloat. “Sweat,”  winner of this year’s prestigious  Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for a play by a woman, is the result of two years of research in Reading, Pennsylvania, which the U.S. Census Bureau proclaimed the poorest city in America.

√ Women of a Certain Age

November 4 – December 4

WomenofaCertainAge

The third play, and culmination of, “The Gabriels” trilogy, which will be both set and open – and which the playwright will finish writing – on Election Day, November 8, 2016.

Party People

November 1 – December 4

PartyPeople1

The complicated legacies of the original Black Panther Party and the Young Lords are explored in a play developed and directed by Liesl Tommy (Eclipsed), and starring the ensemble known as Universes (Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp and William Ruiz aka Ninja), in their Public Theater debut.

Tiny Beautiful Things

November 15 – December 31

Strayed/Vardalos

Strayed/Vardalos

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.)

Under the Radar Festival, 13th edition

January 4-15, 2017

Cutting-edge theater from around the U.S. and the world.

Spring 2017:

Joan of Arc: Into the Fire by David Byrne, directed by Alex Timbers

The Outer Space by Ethan Lipton

Latin History for Morons by John Leguizamo

 Gently Down The Stream by Martin Sherman starring Harvey Fierstein

new_york_01NEW YORK THEATER WORKSHOP

79 East 4th Street. Twitter: @NYTW79

NYTW got much attention last year for presenting David Bowie’s musical “Lazarus.” Its fare ranged from the innovative and tuneful — “Hadestown” — to the cutting edge and incomprehensible — “Fondly, Collette Richland”

Nat Turner in Jerusalem

September 7 – October 16

Nat Turner in Jerusalem

In August 1831, Nat Turner led a slave uprising that shook the conscience of the nation. Turner’s startling account of his prophecy and the insurrection was recorded and published by attorney Thomas R. Gray. NYTW 2050 Fellow Nathan Alan Davis makes his New York debut with a timely new play that imagines Turner’s final night in a jail cell in Jerusalem, Virginia, as he is revisited by Gray and they reckon with what has passed and what the dawn will bring.

Othello

November 22 – January 18, 2017

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

 

Spring 2017:

The Object Lesson

Sojourners and Her Portmanteau

 

SIGNATURE

signature_01

480 West 42nd Street. Twitter: @signaturetheatr

As the first New York theater to win the Regional Tony Award, the Signature now has some solid proof of what has been clear to its patrons for years.  What has distinguished this theater is not only its track record, but its commitment to keep the price of all tickets for initial runs to $25.

With the recent expansion of both their facilities and their mission, some longtime subscribers have had to adjust to the introduction of work by more untested playwrights. This is the first season under new artistic director Paige Evans, who headed Lincoln Center’s LCT3   Signature’s founding artistic director James Houghton died in August.

 Master Harold….and the Boys

October 18 – November 27. Opens November 7.

A revival of Athol Fugard’s play, directed by the playwright, about  two black men and a young white boy who joke and dance together, “defying the brutalities of apartheid through their joyous love. But festering issues of family, race, and power are not so easy to ignore…”

The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World

Opens November 14.

Suzan-Lori Parks begins her Signature residency with a play that “explores and explodes archetypes of Black America with piercing insight and raucous comedy.”

Spring 2017

Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

A new play by Will Eno

The Antipodes by Annie Baker

Venus by Suzan-Lori Parks

 

AtlanticTheaterlogoATLANTIC THEATER

Marie and Rosetta

August 24 – October 2. Opens September 14.

Rebecca Naomi Jones and Kecia Lewis Marie star in this play by George Brant inspired by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the “queen of race records” who influenced everybody from Elvis Presley to Jimi Hendrix, but died forgotten. The play takes place during her first rehearsal with a young protégée, Marie Knight, preparing for a tour.

 The Band’s Visit

November 11 – December 23. Opens December 18.

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), 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.

 

LincolnCenterlogoLINCOLN CENTER THEATER*

@LCTheater

The shows at Lincoln Center’s Off-Broadway venues are inexpensive (especially at the Claire Tow theater, where initial-run tickets cost $20) and often rewarding.

The Harvest

October 8 – November 20. Opens October 24.

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.

The Babylon Line

November 10 – January 22. Opens December 5.

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.

ROUNDABOUT* LAURA PELS

The empire that is now Roundabout includes three Broadway theaters, and that’s where most of the attention is focused, mostly on star-studded revivals, especially musicals.  But its fourth building houses two Off-Broadway theaters (one of them a tiny “Black Box” theater.) It is in its Off-Broadway facility that Stephen Karam’s The Humans originated, now transferred to Broadway, and (as of this writing) the only non-musical there.

Love, Love, Love

September 22 – December 18, 2016. Opens October 19.

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.”

Kingdom Come

October 7 – December 18. Opens November 2.

Jenny Rachel Weiner’s comedy about two people who meet from an online dating site, who are both pretending to be somebody else.

MCC THEATER

Address: The Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street. Twitter: @mcctheater

All The Ways to Say I Love You

September 6 – October 9

Judith Light stars in an hour-long solo play by Neil LaBute, portraying Mrs. Johnson, a high school English teacher and guidance counselor in a loving marriage. “As she recounts her experiences with a favored student from her past, Mrs. Johnson slowly reveals the truth that is hidden just beneath the surface details of her life.”

Ride the Cyclone

November 9 – December 18

“The Saint Cassian High School Chamber Choir will board the Cyclone roller coaster at 8:17pm. At 8:19 the front axle will break, sending them to their tragic demise. A mechanical fortune teller invites each to tell the story of a life interrupted”

CLASSIC STAGE COMPANY

136 East 13th Street Twitter: @ClassicStage

 

Dead Poets Society

October 27-December 11, 2016

DeadPoetsSociety

Academy Award-winner Tom Schulman adapts his own screenplay for this play about an inspiring boarding school teacher, starring Jason Sudeikis.

 

MTC AT CITY CENTER*

131 West 55th Street Twitter: @MTC_NYC

This theater was publicly criticized for the lack of diversity in its season last year, criticism they seem to have taken to heart, judging from its Off-Broadway fare this time around.

Sell/Buy/Date

Opens October 18

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

Vietgone

Opens October 25

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.

OTHER  HIGHLIGHTS

√ Notes From The Field (Second Stage)

October 15 – December 11. Opens November 2.

Drawn from interviews with more than 200 people, Anna Deavere Smith explores the personal accounts of students, parents, teachers and administrators caught in America’s school-to-prison pipeline, which pushes minors from poor communities out of the classroom and into incarceration,

 The 24-Decade History of Popular Music (St. Ann’s Warehouse)

September 15 – October 8.

TaylorMac1910s

Taylor Mac’s concerts chart a history of popular music and activism in America from the nation’s founding in 1776 to the present day. I’ve seen several installments. This is the first time he is putting it all together, including for one marathon 24-hour session.

Sweet Charity (The New Group)

November 2 – December 23, Opens November 20.

A revival on its 50th anniversary of the musical by Neil Simon, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, starring Sutton Foster as Charity Hope Valentine, the dancehall hostess, a role famously associated with Gwen Vernon and Shirley MacLaine.

This Day Forward (Vineyard Theatre)

November 3 – December 18. Opens November 21.

A comedy by Nicky Silver (The Lyons) about a woman who made a surprising confession on her honeymoon, causing all plans to fall apart. “Nearly 50 years later, her children wrestle with their past and a mother whose secrets are quickly fading along with her memory.”

Finian’s Rainbow (Irish Rep)

October 26 – December 18. Opens November 6.

Melissa Errico stars in a reprised revival (translation: the Irish Rep has done it before) of this 1947 musical by Burton Lane and Yip Harburg about an Irishman who steals a leprechaun’s pot of gold and escapes with his daughter to the Jim Crow South.  The creative team intended this musical to be politically on the left, but its message feels nowadays something of an outdated muddle. The tunes, however, are terrific.

Always worth checking out: Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival which focuses on avant-garde experimental and European works.

Other companies worth checking out:

Ars Nova

Rattlesticks Playwright Theater

Mint Theater

Mayi Theater Company

Primary Stages

Pearl Theater

 

There are also commercial shows put together by independent producers that appear in theaters for rent, such as:

Cherry Lane Theatre
Daryl Roth Theatre
Gym at Judson
Lucille Lortel Theatre
New World Stages
Orpheum Theater
The Players Theatre
Snapple Theater Center
Theatre Row – The Acorn
Union Square Theater
Westside Theatre

*THE ASTERISK: Off-Broadway AND Broadway

*Just to complicate matters, several of the resident theaters also present shows on Broadway –  Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theater Company (MTC), the Roundabout Theater Company., and starting this season, Second Stage Theatre, which has bought the Helen Hayes. Their Broadway offerings are listed in my Broadway 2016-2017 Preview Guide.

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 are some terrific Off-Off Broadway theaters, sometimes confused for Off-Broadway. These include (but are not limited to) The FleaLabyrinth Theater, and LaMaMa ETC.

Monthly Calendar of Openings

Because there are so many shows Off-Off Broadway, and their runs are so limited, I include them in my monthly theater preview calendar (along with Broadway and Off Broadway openings) posted near the beginning of each month.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information about Off-Broadway, go to  The League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers (aka The Off-Broadway League).  This should not be confused with the Off-Broadway Alliance, which is a separate organization (though they should probably merge, no?)

August 2015 Theater Openings on Broadway (Hamilton!), Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway

Hamilton9

Hamilton-PlaybillHamilton is NOT the only show opening this month. There are new plays at the Signature by both Annie Baker, winner of last year’s Pulitzer Prize for The Flick, and the 84-year-old A.R. Gurney, experiencing a late-career resurgence. There are 200 shows at the Fringe festival, and another 63 at the lesser known Thespis festival. There are exciting FREE plays at the New Brooklyn Theatre, including one by Lynn Nottage.

But Hamilton is the only show opening on Broadway, and even people who rarely if ever go to the theater have been gushing over it since its debut at the Public Theater, where it swept nearly every Off-Broadway award.

Below is a selection of the shows opening in August, organized chronologically by opening date. Each title is linked to a relevant website.

Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple or Blue. Off Off Broadway: Green.

August 2

Delirium’s Daughters (Triumvirate Artists at Theatre Row)

Four suitors, three daughters…what’s a father to do? A kind old gentleman believes his deceased wife has forbid their three daughters to marry, until one of the suitors plays a series of tricks that helps him deal with his loss and recover his sanity. A new take on Commedia Dell’Arte

August 3

What I Learned in Fallsburg (Stage 72 at the Triad)

Gary Waldman’s personal musical tribute to growing up in the Catskills

August 4

Crossing Verrazano (Hudson Guild)

Writer-director Anthony Fusco’s play tells the true story of a gay-bashing that took place in Greenwich Village in 2010.

Lynn Nottage

Lynn Nottage

This is one of 63 plays being presented as part of the Thespis Theater Festival.

August 5

Las Meninas (New Brooklyn Theatre)

A play by Pulitzer-winnig playwright Lynn Nottage that tells the story of “the love affair between Louis XIV’s wife Queen Marie-Therese and Nabo, her African servant as told through the imagination of their illegitimate daughter. This play is offered FOR FREE.

August 6

Hamilton (Richard Rodgers)

Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson with ensemble of Hamilton

Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson with ensemble of Hamilton

The story of Alexander Hamilton, told by Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights) using a mix of rap, jazz, r&b, and even light opera. I saw this at the Public Theater, and loved it.

August 7

Rachel2

Rachel (New Brooklyn Theatre)

Angelina Weld Grimké, the first African-American woman to have a play publicly performed, wrote Rachel  at the request of W.E.B. DuBois, shortly after the debut of D.W. Griffith’s racist 1915 film The Birth of a Nation,  it was one of the first plays to protest lynching and racial violence. This play is offered FOR FREE, and is presented in repertoire with Las Meninas.

August 10

cymbeline

Cymbeline (Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park)

 Lily Rabe, Hamish Linklater, Patrick Page and Raul Esparza are featured In this Shakespearean fairy tale directed by Daniel Sullivan, described this way: ” Princess Imogen’s fidelity is put to the royal test when her disapproving father banishes her soul mate. Cross-dressing girls and cross-dressing boys, poisons and swordfights and dastardly villains all take the stage in this enchanting romp about the conquering power of love.” For FREE.

August 11

John (Signature Theater)

Signature Theatre presents “John” A New Play by Annie Baker; Directed by Sam Gold Pictured: Georgia Engel as Mertis Katherine Graven, Christopher Abbott as Elias Schreiber-Hoffman & Lois Smith as Genevieve Marduk

Signature Theatre presents “John”
A New Play by Annie Baker; Directed by Sam Gold
Pictured: Georgia Engel as Mertis Katherine Graven, Christopher Abbott as Elias Schreiber-Hoffman & Lois Smith as Genevieve Marduk

A play by Annie Baker (Pulitzer winner for The Flick), starring an impressive cast including Georgia Engel (from the Mary Tyler Moore Show), Christopher Abbott (who left Girls),Hong Chau (Treme) and Lois Smith (The Trip to Bountiful, Rebel Without A Cause, etc), and directed by long-time Baker collaborator Sam Gold. “The week after Thanksgiving. A Bed & Breakfast in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. A cheerful innkeeper. A young couple struggling to stay together. Thousands of inanimate objects, watching. “

August 14

Fringeteaser

The New York International Fringe Festival, which begins today and runs through August 30th, offers almost 200 different shows.

August 18

InformedConsentforTwitter

Informed Consent (Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd St)

A play by Deborah Zoe Laufer “about one woman’s quest to answer the mysteries of science and her own life, inspired by a landmark court case between one of the country’s largest universities and a Native American tribe based in the Grand Canyon.”  The suit was against Arizona State University for doing unauthorized research on blood drawn from members of the Havasupai tribe

August 19

MercuryFurscriptcoerMercury Fur (New Group at Signature)

“In a society ravaged by warring gangs and a hallucinogenic-drug epidemic, Elliot and Darren, under the sway of the ruthless Spinx, throw parties for rich clients in abandoned apartment buildings – parties that help guests act out their darkest, most sinister fantasies.”

August 24

Love and Money (Signature)

AR Gurney By Gregory CostanzoA.R. Gurney, 84, has written close to 50 plays. He is best-known for “The Dinner Party,” but he is experiencing a career resurgence, which includes last fall’s Broadway revival of Love Letters, and this fall’s Broadway debut of Sylvia, as well as an entire season devoted to him at the Signature. Love and Money is a new play written as part of his residency year at Signature. “Determined to donate almost everything she owns before her life of grace and privilege ends, wealthy widow Cornelia Cunningham’s plan hits a snag when an ambitious and ingratiating young man arrives to claim his alleged inheritance.”

August 27

A Delicate Ship (Playwrights Realm at The Peter J Sharpe Theater)

A Delicate Shipcast

From the company, Playwrights Realm, that produced one of my favorite shows from last year, My Manana Comes, comes this play by Anna Ziegler. “It’s Christmas Eve, and Sarah and Sam are celebrating like New Yorkers: flirting over wine and debating the nature of existential suffering. Then there is a knock on the door, and Sarah’s childhood friend Nate stands at the threshold. And suddenly suffering becomes a whole lot less sexy.”

Whorl Inside a Loop (Second Stage)

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Co-written and co-performed by Sherie Rene Scott (Everyday Rapture) A well-regarded actress agrees to teach six inmates how to tell their stories behind the bars of a men’s maximum security prison. Sharing intimate and sometimes hilarious details of their former lives, this unlikely group forms a bond — even as the actress’s life outside spins out of control.”