Miles for Mary Review: The Mad Ones Make Fun Of Meetings, and High School

“Miles for Mary” is the Mad Ones theater troupe’s spot-on, deadpan funny look at a year’s worth of planning committee meetings for a local telethon at an Ohio high school. Originally presented last fall Off-Off Broadway at the Bushwick Starr, where it was well-received, it is the first production in what Playwrights Horizons is calling its Redux Series, an effort to bring shows at smaller theaters to Off-Broadway for a longer run. As such, it seems like a test case. Will the Playwrights Horizons audience take to a show that requires so much patience and at least a little insolence?
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Rancho Viejo Review: Life in the California Suburbs

Rancho ViejoAt one of the continual neighborhood get-togethers in “Rancho Viejo,” Dan LeFranc’s new play at Playwrights Horizons about the residents of a fictional California suburb, one of the characters says he likes the weird books his college graduate son left in his garage: “They’re not exactly the kind of thing that’s gonna catch your attention from the start…they’re kinda like what I guess you’d call like a slow burn?” He then compares them to surfing: “I mean nothing’s happening out there for hours, but then if you’re patient the waves come rolling in one after the other….”

With this passage, the playwright is obliquely making a promise to the audience. And yes, waves do eventually roll in at “Rancho Viejo” – or at least the sounds of waves, during a nighttime scene at a beach. But “Rancho Viejo” is largely a tease of a play that is three long hours full of deliberate banality. The play, with a stellar cast portraying nine characters plus a dog, is subtitled “a suburban sprawl.” It mocks, or perhaps just reproduces, the desultory rhythms, affluent ennui and existential anxiety and loneliness of middle class, middle aged California suburban life. The design emphasizes the monotony; there is no effort to make the various living rooms look any different from one another.

Yet, at the same time, there are moments from the start that seem slightly off-kilter, leading to an accretion of weirdness that keeps us hoping it all will wind up meaning something.

While all nine characters (plus the dog) get their moments, “Rancho Viejo” focuses on the couple Pete (the always reliable Mark Blum) and Mary (Mare Winningham, the screen actress who has quietly triumphed as a regular on the New York stage.) They are the sort of couple so bland that their neighbors Gary and Patti (Mark Zeisler and Julia Duffy) keep on asking about Pete and Mary’s kids, not remembering that they don’t have any.

Gary and Patti do. We learn early that their adult son Richie (never seen on stage) is getting a divorce. This startles Pete, and then it obsesses him. His obsession with Richie’s divorce, which drives him to take odd action, is the closest that “Rancho Viejo” comes to a plot.

LeFranc is best known for “The Big Meal,” his 2012 play, also at Playwrights Horizons, that depicted one family at dinner over several generations. Rather than compressing decades of significant events into 90 minutes, as he did in that play, LeFranc now does the reverse, taking twice as long to stretch out minutia. One feels tempted to compare “Rancho Viejo” to “The Flick,” which also started at Playwrights Horizons, where it provoked complaints from some theatergoers that it was too long, but went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. Both plays take their time to offer small details about everyday life and emotions that feel well observed, both have moments of quiet amusement, and both, despite extraordinary casts and fine direction, are probably better reads than physical excursions for many theatergoers.

In the more diffuse “Rancho Viejo,” however, the playwright is playing games with our expectations. Weird things happen to Pete and Mary. Somebody calls them each morning and hangs up without speaking; it’s part of their morning ritual. They (and we) are mystified by the presence of a teenager named Taters (Ethan Dubin) at the various get-togethers of their middle-aged friends; their encounters with him weird them out, and, in the most gripping scene, scare Pete. In the most accessible action of the play, Mary, whose best friend has moved away, tries to become better friends with the other characters.

What does this add up to?

One senses that the characters are questioning (mostly unconsciously) the meaning of their lives. But the playwright seems more interested in exploring the meaninglessness of their lives, or perhaps of lives in general; there’s an absurdist and nihilist bent to “Rancho Viejo.” It’s not surprising that LeFranc has expressed his admiration for Samuel Beckett. Somebody might remind LeFranc that as Beckett got older (and wiser), his plays got shorter.


Rancho Viejo
At Playwrights Horizons
Written by Dan LeFranc
Directed by Daniel Aukin
Set design by Dane Laffrey, lighting design by Matt Frey, costume design by Jessica Pabst, sound design by Leon Rothenberg
Cast: Mare Winningham, Mark Blum, Julia Duffy, Bill Buell, Ruth Aguilar, Ethan Dubin, Tyrone Mitchell Henderson, Lusia Strus, Mark Zeisler.
Running time: Three hours, including two intermissions.
Tickets: $39 to $89
“Rancho Viejo” is scheduled to run through December 23, 2016.


A Life Review: David Hyde Pierce Takes Shocking Stock

For the first half of Adam Bock’s “A Life” — before its life-changing coup de theatre — David Hyde Pierce as Nate sits on his Eames sofa and seems to be taking stock of his life. A gay New Yorker who works as a proofreader at an ad agency, he is still reeling from his latest breakup, and occasionally glances at his cell phone — “He keeps not calling me.” He holds up his astrological chart and explains it to us in some detail – a neighbor turned him on to astrology after he confessed to her “I’d lost faith in everything I’d ever learned.” He loves it, considers it a science, but also goes to group therapy to help make sense of his life because “astrology might be full of shit.” He tells us about his group sessions, and how the other members think he has a problem with intimacy.
“There has to be another way,” he says, and it’s apparent he is talking about his life as a whole.
We’ve more or less made our peace with “A Life” as a monologue, when the scene shifts, and Nate’s best friend Curtis (Brad Heberlee) joins him for an idle chat in the park while they casually comment on the hunks they eye jogging past.

And then something happens that I can’t talk about – I don’t want to spoil it. It’s safest to quote the promotional material, which characterizes his monologue as having questioned his place in the cosmos. “The answer he receives, when it comes, is shockingly obvious — and totally unpredictable.”

I would have loved for “A Life” to have been a play more worthy of attention leading up to the abrupt change in perspective. There is a meandering quality to Nate’s conversation that may well be intentional, but can come across as filler.  But all (or most) is forgiven by the end.

Director Anne Kauffman has a splendid track record in plays such as The Nether and Belleville and Detroit both of making the other-wordly seem ordinary and of investing the everyday with ineffable dread.  Her precise and pointed direction of “A Life” is aided immeasurably by her design team, especially scenic designer Laura Jellinek’s clever stagecraft and sound designer Mihail Fiksel’s half-amusing, half-horrifying ode to the sounds of the city. The supporting cast is spot-on. But it’s the charming, credible, comical and ultimately chilling performance of David Hyde Pierce that makes “A Life” memorable.

A Life
Playwrights Horizons
Written by Adam Bock
Directed by Anne Kauffman

Marinda Anderson — Jocelyn
Brad Heberlee — Curtis
Nedra McClyde — Allison
Lynne McCollough — Lori Martin
David Hyde Pierce — Nate Martin
Scenic Design: Laura Jellinek
Costume Design: Jessica Pabst
Lighting Design: Matt Frey
Sound Design: Mikhail Fiksel
Production Stage Manager: Erin Gioia Albrecht
Running time: About 80 minutes with no intermission
Tickets: $59 to $99

“A Life” is scheduled to run through November 27, 2016

Indian Summer Review: A Teen Triangle on a Rhode Island Beach

Indian Summer Playwrights HorizonsAn Indian summer, as a character defines it in Gregory S. Moss’s play, is a time in late August when “ the animals, the birds, even the plants” are “a little stunned that it’s still warm outside.” Although not stunning, Moss’s play “Indian Summer,” about a teen romance at the Rhode Island seashore, is certainly warm, largely thanks to the charming, just-right four-member cast.

Daniel (Owen Campbell), who’s 16, sits on the beach by himself, sulking, having been left by his mother to stay with his grandfather, when 17-year-old Izzy (Elise Kibler) arrives and belligerently demands that Daniel give her the busted green toy bucket he’s idly playing with. It belongs to her brother, she says.

Daniel refuses.

DANIEL: I’m tired of all these people, people like you, walking around leaving their buckets — ABANDONING their buckets on the beach! If this thing was so special to you, if your brother really CARED about it? then he shouldn’t have left it here!

IZZY: He’s six!

DANIEL: All I ever do is give things up, give things up to people like you –

IZZY: “people like me?”


The mutual hostility escalates, in a quietly hilarious way, and if the exchange seems more likely for characters who are a few years younger, Campbell and Kibler make it work. In a later scene, Izzy comes back with Jeremy (Joe Tippett), her boyfriend, who’s been instructed to punch Daniel. Instead, in keeping with his “spiritual practice” (“a Christian orientated martial art of my own devising”) he motions for Daniel to hug him. But it’s a trick; Jeremy lifts Daniel up and drops him on his back in the sand.

These are the three characters with whom we spend most of the summer in this full-length play, in what develops into a kind of love triangle that’s as sweet, funny, innocent and as apparently free of  consequences as their initial confrontations.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged.

But the playwright alternates the scenes among these characters with scenes, mostly monologues, involving Daniel’s grandfather George (Jonathan Hadary.)  George talks about the history of the seashore, and about nature and various other topics — he’s the one who defines Indian summer for us — in what initially seems to be little more than a series of breaks for the other actors in order for them to change into different costumes.

But the play takes something of an odd detour, which I won’t tell you about, even though it wouldn’t really be a spoiler, since it doesn’t derail the central plot of the three younger characters. George, as Daniel explains at one point to Izzy, is bereaved; his wife died, perhaps not long ago.  One suspects this has something to do with the elegiac program note by the playwright, which includes the observation:

“There are certain circumstances — love, and the end of love; the deep unfairness of time passing; death and loss; why some people are born into luck, health, and money, and others are not — that resist logical rationalization. Theater provides a place to bear witness to these things. It allows for a gentle, communal acknowledgment of our own powerlessness, as animals caught between social structures, the natural world, and our own mortality. Everyone in the play is looking for a home.”

Gregory Moss sounds a little like George in these dark ruminations. The playwright’s effort to invest his sandy scenes with a profound context doesn’t detract from “Indian Summer,” but it’s the shoal-deep interplay on the beach that most engages us, helped along by Dane Laffrey’s persuasive beach and Eric Southern’s luscious lighting.

“Indian Summer” afforded me an extra pleasure of seeing good actors I’ve seen before (not all time passing is unfair!)  — Owen Campbell, who made a memorable impression in the TV series The Americans as the son of two KGB agents who turns out to have killed his entire family; Joe Tippett, whom I last saw in a terrific performance as the clueless well-meaning younger brother in Danai Gurira’s Familiar; Elise Kibler, who was the innocent new office worker in London Wall; Jonathan Hadary, who is one of those matchless stalwarts of the New York stage, whether as the intellectual Jewish neighbor in Golden Boy, or his Tony-nominated performance as Herbie in Gypsy or in the first play in which I saw him perform, some 25 years ago, Terrence McNally’s “Lips Together, Teeth Apart,”  another play about lives unfolding one summer on sand.




Indian Summer
Playwrights Horizons
Written by Gregory S. Moss
Directed by Carolyn Cantor
Scenic Design: Dane Laffrey
Costume Design: Kaye Voyce
Lighting Design: Eric Southern
Sound Design: Stowe Nelson
Production Stage Manager: Kyle Gates
Cast: Owen Campbell — Daniel, Jonathan Hadary — George, Elise Kibler — Izzy, Joe Tippett — Jeremy
Running time: 2 hours and 10 minutes including an intermission
Tickets: $75 to $90
“Indian Summer” is scheduled to run through June 26, 2016

Antlia Pneumatica Review: A Spooky Big Chill Reunion

Anne Washburn’s new play sounds like the premise for the movies The Big Chill and The Return of the Secaucus Seven – a group of old friends reunite in a bucolic ranch house in the Texas Hill Country after one of them dies – but if it were a movie the producers would surely have insisted that it not be called “Antlia Pneumatica.” The title is named after a constellation, and it’s the first clue that Washburn’s play will take an other-worldly turn, something anybody acquainted with such previous work of hers as “Mr. Burns, a post-electric play” might have suspected in any case.

The friends in their early 40’s have gathered from different parts of the country to spread the ashes of a friend with whom they each had lost touch years before.  They spend most of their time standing around a kitchen island making pies and salads. But from the start things seem amiss. Objects go missing that nobody can account for. An ex-boyfriend shows up without having been invited, saying he was told about the gathering from another friend – but somebody in the group seems to remember that that other friend died 14 years ago. Characters recall events that they then dismiss as dreams — but wonder whether they are real. A late-arriving twist puts “Antlia Pneumatica” in the realm of a ghost story.

But the disorientation in “Antlia Pneumatica” is not limited to the characters. Most scenes in the play occur on a stage that is lit too darkly to see clearly. At one point, Nina (Annie Parisse) and her long-ago boyfriend Andre (Rob Campbell) speak in pitch dark, all that’s visible the faint stars above (including, you guessed it, the Antlia Pneumatica.) Other scenes occur entirely off-stage, recorded voices of characters we never see. Much is left unresolved and unexplained.

In theory, this double disorientation of both characters and audience should be thought-provoking, the mystical and mysterious atmosphere intriguing. In practice, it comes off as vague. This is in part because, ironically or not, the more accessible scenes are so appealing — the ones in which the characters reminisce about their times together, and riff on parenthood and getting older, and, yes, on death. As they get reacquainted, we get to know them. Annie Parisse creates an attractive Nina, the daughter of a long-deceased celebrity singer-songwriter whose long-neglected ranch she has inherited, and who is the host of this gathering. April Mathis plays her younger sister Liz, and their interaction has the feel of concretely observed sibling dynamics. The character Len gets the best lines, both the funniest and most arresting, and Nat DeWolf makes the most of them. Crystal Finn as Bama sweeps us up with her enthusiasm even as she delivers the spookiest reveal.

Anne Washburn’s sometimes unnerving imagination and her eagerness to experiment with form and theatrical effect help make her a playwright whose work stands out even when you can’t quite stand or understand it.  Her wit and ear for dialogue make attendance worthwhile even when she’s leaving you in the dark.

Antlia Pneumatica

at Playwrights Horizons
By Anne Washburn
Directed by Ken Rus Schmoll
Cast: Rob Campbell, Nat DeWolf, Crystal Finn, April Matthis, Annie Parisse, Maria Striar, Skylar Dunn, Azhy Robertson
Scenic Design: Rachel Hauck
Costume Design: Jessica Pabst
Lighting Design: Tyler Micoleau
Sound Design: Leah Gelpe
Stage Manager: Megan Schwarz Dickert
Songs by Daniel Kluger, Anne Washburn
Running time: 2 hours with no intermission

Tickets: $60 to $80
Antlia Pneumatica is scheduled to run through April 24, 2016


Familiar by Danai Gurira at Playwrights Horizons

Danai Gurira is best known for slicing off the heads of zombies in The Walking Dead, but that is about to change. Her play Eclipsed is opening on Broadway March 6, starring Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o. Three days earlier, Familiar, her funny, insightful play about a Zimbabwe family living in Minnesota, is opening Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

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


Off Broadway Spring 2016 Guide

As Hamilton director Thomas Kail makes clear this season, Broadway may beckon, but Off-Broadway is the room where it happens.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail

Kail is directing two plays Off-Broadway – “Dry Powder” at the Public, starring The Office’s John Krasinski making his New York stage debut, and “Daphne’s Dive” at the Signature, written by Pulitzer-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes, who shares Broadway credentials with both Kail and Lin-Manuel Miranda. (She is the book writer for Miranda’s “In The Heights.”)

Danai Gurira, who until last year was best known for her role as Michonne on The Walking Dead TV series, will see her play “Eclipsed” transfer from Off-Broadway to Broadway this season. But one day after “Eclipsed” is scheduled to open, a second play of hers, ‘Familiar,” is opening at Off Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons.

Even Harold Prince — as in the Prince of Broadway — is directing a new musical Off-Broadway this season, his first new work for a New York stage in nine years.

HaroldPrinceOther Broadway stalwarts with new shows Off-Broadway include Pasek and Paul (best-known for A Christmas Story), Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy, Parade), Stew and Heidi Rodewald (Passing Strange), Lydia Diamond (Stick Fly), John Patrick Shanley (Doubt), and Enda Walsh (Once)

If the line between Broadway and Off-Broadway seems increasingly porous, there are still significant differences, which require separate approaches.  Broadway is more or less a collection of random individual potential hits or misses. (See my Broadway Spring 2016 Preview Guide.)  Off-Broadway is not as easy to get your hands around — there are many more shows and most have limited runs; the theaters are more spread out geographically and far more numerous — some 200 theaters/theater companies, or five times the number of Broadway houses.  But it also features a solid number of producing theaters, who reliably present a rich, adventurous and diverse season of shows, at lower prices than Broadway.

Danai Gurira, author of a play on Broadway and Off Broadway

Danai Gurira, author of a play on Broadway and Off Broadway

It thus makes sense to organize an Off-Broadway preview by focusing on these individual seasons, presented in the order of my preference for the particular 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, both as theatergoer and as critic.)

I’ve put a red check mark —  — besides ten 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. I plan to see almost everything below, and expect to be surprised.

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. It offers new plays and musicals that are consistently satisfying, or at least intriguing.


Familiar by Danai Gurira

February 12 – March 27, 2016

“It’s winter in Minnesota, and a Zimbabwean family is preparing for the wedding of their eldest daughter, a first-generation American. But when the bride insists on observing a traditional African custom, it opens a deep rift in the household.”

Antlia Pneumatica by Anne Washburn

March 11 – April 24, 2016

Washburn (who forever has my attention, thanks to her Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play) writes about a once tight-knit group of friends who reunite to bury one of their own.

Indian Summer by Gregory S. Moss

May 13 – June 26, 2016

Spending an unpleasant summer with his grandfather, in an unfriendly Rhode Island beach town, Daniel soon meets Izzy, who is tough-acting, beguiling, and taken.


publictheaterlogo425 Lafayette Street. Twitter: @PublicTheaterNY

The original home of the Broadway hits Hamilton and Fun Home, as well as Eclipsed, opening on Broadway this season.

The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street

The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street

Under the Radar Festival, 12th edition

January 6-17, 2016

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

The first performance of each of the Public’s main shows below is offered for free by lottery. 

Southern Comfort

February 23 – March 27, 2016

A bluegrass-tinged musical based on a documentary that tells the true story of a group of transgender friends living life on their own terms in the back hills of rural Georgia

The Gabriels, Election Year in the Life of One Family

Play One: Hungry

February 27 – March 20

As a kind of follow-up to Richard Nelson’s impressive series, The Apple Family Plays, the playwright is writing a three-play cycle about a different family in the same upstate city of Rhinebeck, using the same approach — the discussion of krasinskipolitics happening on the same day as the play itself is unfolding.

Dry Powder

The wheeling-dealing of the executives (including John Krasinski) in a private equity firm.

March 1 – April 10

Head of Passesphylicia rashad in head of passes

March 15 – April 17

Inspired by the Book of Job, this play by Tarell Alvin McCraney (The Brother/Sister Plays) and directed by Tina Landau presents the story of Shelah (Phylicia Rashad) who must fight to survive during a reunion held on her birthday.

The Total Bent

May 10 – June 12

A British record producer courts a Southern black composer in this musical written by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, the team behind Passing Strange.

The Mobile Shakespeare Unit: Romeo & Juliet 

April 11 – May 1

Directed by Lear deBessonet




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.

This season is special for two reasons — it’s the 25th anniversary season, and it’s the last one under founding artistic director James Houghton.

Old Hats

January 26 – March 2016

A return of Bill Irwin and David Shiner signature clowning.

Angel Reapers

 Angel Reapers

February 2 to March 13. Opens February 22.

Playwright Alfred Uhry and choreographer/director Martha Clarke team up on this “theatrical collage” about the Shakers, the early American religious sect best-remembered now for their furniture, whose members were committed to celibacy. Actual traditional Shaker songs and movement are incorporated.


Daphne’s Dive

April 26 – June 5, 2016

Directed by Thomas Kail, this play is the first of several at the Signature to be written by Quiara Alegría Hudes. “Daphne’s Dive is a cheap corner bar in North Philly where Daphne and her vibrant, eclectic regulars drink to art, politics, and life.”



Edward Albee’s The Sandbox
María Irene Fornés’ Drowning 
Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro

May 3 – June 12, 2016

 This trio of famous one-act plays is directed by Lila Neugebauer

SecondStagelogoSECOND STAGE *

The cast of Smart People: Mahershala Ali, Joshua Jackson, Ann Son, Tessa Thompson

The cast of Smart People: Mahershala Ali, Joshua Jackson, Ann Son, Tessa Thompson

Smart People

January 26 – March 6. Opens February 11.

Written by Lydia Diamond and directed by Kenny Leon — the same team that brought us Stick Fly – the comedy focuses on four Harvard intellectuals who find themselves entangled in a complex web of social and sexual politics on the eve of Obama’s first election.

Dear Evan Hansen, from the Arena Stage production

Dear Evan Hansen, from the Arena Stage production

√ Dear Evan Hansen

March 26 – May 22. Opens May 1

A hit when it played at Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage, this original musical tells the story of a high school student who is mistakenly thought to be best friends with a classmate who had committed suicide.   Michael Greif (RentNext to Normal and Grey Gardens) directs, with music and lyrics by  Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (A Christmas Story, Dogfight) and a book by Steven Levenson (Showtime’s “Masters of Sex”).



108 East 15th Street Twitter: @VineyardTheatre


February 4 – March 13, 2016

Written by Colman Domingo and directed by Susan Stroman, “Dot” examine’s Dotty’s struggles to navigate life with dementia, while her children fight to balance care for their mother and care for themselves.


√ Indecent

“May – June 2016”

In the same season that the much-anticipated Shuffle Along presents the backstage story to a famous Broadway musical from the 1920’s, Paula Vogel’s new play looks at the events surrounding the 1923 Broadway debut of Yiddish-theater playwright Sholem Asch’s controversial drama God of Vengeance, which dealt with prostitution and lesbianism and whose cast was successfully prosecuted for obscenity.



79 East 4th Street. Twitter: @NYTW79

Red Speedo

February 17, 2016—March 27, 2016

Lucas Hnath (The Christians) writes about an Olympic swimmer who “confronts the lure of endorsements, the perils of mixing the personal and professional, and the unforgiving weight of success.”


Inspired by Orpheus’ mythical quest to overcome Hades and regain the favor of his one true love, this musical developed and directed by Rachel Chavkin  (a name you’ll keep on hearing), with folk and jazz music by Anaïs Mitchell, takes place in an “industrialized world of mindless labor and full stomachs.”



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

The RoyaleThe Royale

February 11 – May 1.  Opens March 7.

Written by Marco Ramirez and directed by Rachel Chavkin, the play is “loosely based on the real-life experiences of Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight world champion.”

Her Requiem

February 6 – March 20. Opens February 22.

Written by Greg Pierce and directed by Kate Whoriskey: “Caitlin takes her senior year off from high school to compose a full-scale requiem. Inspired by her dedication, her father, Dean, becomes obsessed with requiems and the people who love them, while her mother, Allison, becomes concerned about Caitlin’s isolation from everyone aside from her music teacher.”


May 21 –

Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Appropriate, An Octoroon and Gloria.) “Tensions escalate between Tate and Joanne after their mother has a stroke. As they attack each other in their mother’s hospital room, they are ambushed by two strangers who make a shocking claim about their grandfather during WWII.”


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


February 4 – March 13, 2016

“Magical realism collides with manic vaudeville in a family drama” written by Noah Haidle and directed by Anne Kauffman. The cast includes Zachary Quinto.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Gynecologic Oncology Unit At Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Of New York City

May 19-Jun 25, 2016

Written by Hailey Feiffer and directed by Trip Cullman:   “A foul-mouthed twenty-something comedienne and a middle-aged man embroiled in a nasty divorce are brought together unexpectedly when their cancer-stricken mothers become roommates in the hospital.


roundabout_01This is their 50th anniversary. Off-Broadway’s Roundabout show, The Humans, is transferring to Broadway this season.

Steven Pasquale

The Robber Bridegroom

February 18 – May 29

Steven Pasquale stars in this revival of the musical with book by Alfred Uhry about  “a Southern-fried Robin Hood” who falls in love




Mother Courage and her Children

December 9 – ?

Tonya Pinkins left this production citing creative differences, so it’s up int he air when it will open and when the run will end.  Bertolt Brecht’s most popular play about a Mother Courage who follows one luckless army after another across a war-torn world, has been transposed to the present-day Congo. Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) has written a new score for the play.


√ Nathan the Wise

March 18 –

F. Murray Abraham stars an adaptation of this 18th century play by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. “Jerusalem, 1192. Muslims, Christians and Jews live side by side thanks to a fragile truce that could collapse at any moment. As the tension mounts a question arises from the ruling Sultan: “which religion is the one most beloved by God?” Nathan, a pious Jewish merchant, is charged with answering this question to help secure the continued safety of his people.”

Peer Gynt

May 11 –

Director John Doyle (Passion, Allegro)adapted Ibsen’s tale of the misadventures of young Peer from childhood renegade to outcast, adventurer, industrialist…


√ Skeleton Crew

January 6 — February 14, 2016. Opens January 19.

“In Dominique Morisseau’s third play in her Detroit trilogy, a makeshift family of workers at the last exporting auto plant in the city navigate the possibility of foreclosure”  Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

Hold Onto Me Darling

February 24 – April 3

The new play by Kenneth Lonergan focuses on a world-famous country singer who questions his celebrity after his mother’s death, and moves back to his hometown; “it doesn’t go well.”

Feb 24 — April 3, 2016

The Band’s Visit 

May 19 – July 10

A musical by composer David Yazbek and playwright Itamar Moses, based on the funny 2007 Israeli film about an Egyptian military police band who get the wrong directions and wind up in a small forgotten town in the Isareli desert.

This is the new musical directed by Harold Prince.

Update: Harold Prince dropped out, and The Band’s Visit will now be directed by David Cromer — in the Fall.


131 West 55th Street Twitter: @MTC_NYC

This theater was publicly criticized for the lack of diversity in its season.


 Prodigal Son

January 19 – March 20. Opens February 9
John Patrick Shanley’s new play, which he directs, stars Robert Sean Leonard, and Timothée Chalamet as a brilliant, troubled young man from the Bronx at a New Hampshire private school.

The Ruins of Civilization

May 4 – . Opens May 18.

A couple open their home to a stranger in need sometime in the future, with unexpected results. Written by Penelope Skinner (The Village Bike)


May 3 to June 26, 2016. Opens May 24.

Written by Nick Payne (Constellations) and directed by Doug Hughes (Doubt.) “A pathologist steals the brain of Albert Einstein; a neuropsychologist embarks on her first romance with another woman; a seizure patient forgets everything but how much he loves his girlfriend.”




The Glory of the World at Brooklyn Academy of Music – Jan 16 – Feb 6, by Charles Mee, about Catholic monk Thomas Merton.


Sojourners at Playwrights Realm, January 21 – February 13 – written by Mfoniso Udofia, directed Ed Sylvanus Iskandar. A Nigerian immigrant wants to return home after she gets her degree; her arranged-marriage husband wants to stay.

Buried Child at The New Group,  February 2 – March 13. revival of Sam Shepard play with a stellar cast including Ed Harris and Amy Madigan.

 Pericles at Theater for a New Audience February 14 – March 27.The Shakespearean play will be directed by Trevor Nunn with music composed by Shaun Davey and performed by PigPen Theatre Co.


Nice Fish at St. Ann’s Warehouse February 14 – March 13. Mark Rylance stars in a play he co-wrote with his favorite poet, Louis Jenkins, about two men ice-fishing.

Other companies worth checking out:


Ars Nova

Irish Repertory Theater

Ma-Yi Theater Company

Mint Theater Company

Primary Stages

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater


There are also commercial Off-Broadway 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
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 Spring 2016 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 (along with Broadway and Off Broadway openings) posted near the beginning of each month.

My latest monthly calendar guide


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?)

The Christians By Lucas Hnath at Playwrights Horizons


Do theology and theater mix? Is there an unspoken separation between church and stage? A day after the announcement that Amazing Grace will close on Broadway after little more than three months, The Christians opens Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, telling the story of a pastor who shocks his congregation with a single sermon….What’s most unexpected about The Christians is that there’s not a scintilla of satire.  Hnath, whose mother is an ordained minister and who at one time considered becoming a member of the clergy himself, treats each character with respect. His aim seems not to score points but to explore the nature of faith and the politics of a church like this.

Full review in DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged.

Bootycandy Review: Growing Up Black and Gay and Rated R

In the first of Robert O’Hara’s ten scenes about growing up black and gay, a young child named Sutter asks his mother some uncomfortable questions, including why she and his grandmother call his penis booty candy.

“I don’t know,” his mother answers. “I guess because it’s the candy to the booty!”

“So can I lick it?”

This is bawdy, this is funny, but it’s also a little poignant. Those are the three main ingredients of “Bootycandy” as a whole – though not always at the same time. The show that O’Hara has written and directed, which has opened at Playwrights Horizons, is a collection of short plays, comedy sketches, and meta fiddling around that may at first glance seem barely connected, but are worth a second glance.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged, and read the caption.

Phillip James Brannon portrays Sutter, a clear stand-in for the playwright, and the only one of the five protean cast members who portrays only one character. Sutter appears in half the scenes, showing him at various stages of his life, though not necessarily in chronological order. In “Drinks and Desire,” he meets Roy (Jesse Pennington), another young man, in a series of bars, where they talk explicitly about having sex, with dialogue that makes it feel like an absurdist drama:

Roy: I know I…I would like to try
Sutter. Try what?
Roy. I don’t know…Something

In “Happy Meal,” the teenage Sutter is at home with his mother, stepfather and sister when he tells them that a man has been following him home from the library.

“You need to take up some sports,” his stepfather says, not looking up from his paper.

“This school year, no musicals,” his mother says.

What follows from their mouths is a litany of things he should start or stop doing, which (left unsaid) would make him more masculine — hilarious and surreal, but also in some ways spot-on.

In the last scene, “iPhone,” the adult Sutter visits his Granny in a nursing home, and uses his iPhone to revisit scenes he witnessed as a child, which he recorded at the time, and which are re-created before our eyes, subtly tying together some of the plot threads from the previous scenes.

In-between the domestic scenes with Sutter are broad skits. Lance Coadie Williams is fabulous as preacher with a secret (“Dreamin in Church”) — one of five characters Williams plays, including the stepfather and Granny. Jessica Frances Dukes and Benja Kay Thomas play three women having a telephone conversation that is entirely about one of them wanting to name her newborn “Genitalia.” Dukes and Thomas portray two lesbians officially breaking up in  a “non-commitment ceremony”  (“…to no longer have and no longer hold, from this day forward, for my better and your worse…”) If these sketches are over the top and (like most of the scenes) go on just a wee bit too long, they are redeemed by the virtuosic clowning of the cast, helped along by the costume and set design by Clint Ramos.

The remaining scenes are not as easily categorized. Both “Mug” and “The Last Gay Play” are deliberately ugly, and more intriguing because of it.

Then there is “Conference,” a biting satire with a panel discussion between a clueless white moderator and four black writers (including Sutter), each of whom has written one of the plays we’ve just seen.

“Each of you seem to have a strong facility with language and structure as well as grappling with some rather provocative issues and risky situations,” the moderator says. “I’m wondering what you are hoping the audience comes away with after seeing your work?”

Sutter: I think the audience should choke.

Moderator: Choke?

Sutter: Asphyxiate.

Moderator: To death?

Writer: I don’t want them to digest it easily

....Sutter: The work should be work

Some audience members might well choke on “Bootycandy,” but it would most likely be from laughter.



at Playwrights Horizons

Written and directed by Robert O’Hara

Scenic and costume design by Clint Ramos, lighting design by Japhy Weideman

Cast: Phillip James Brannon, Jessica Frances Dukes, Jesse Pennington, Benja Kay Thomas, Lance Coadie Williams

Running time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, including one intermission.

Tickets: $75 to $95

Bootycandy is scheduled to run through October 12.

Suggested for theatergoers 17 and older.

Update: The play has been extended to October 19, 2014


Off-Broadway Spring 2014 Guide

Kung Fu, a new play by David Henry Hwang about Bruce Lee, at Signature Theater

Kung Fu, a new play by David Henry Hwang about Bruce Lee, at Signature Theater

Off Broadway this season, David Henry Hwang is telling the story of Bruce Lee in Kung Fu. Frank Langella plays King Lear. Actress  Linda Lavin and playwright Nicky Silver pair up again, as they did hilariously in The Lyons, for a new comedy, Too Much Sun.  Caryl Churchill offers 57 scenes in 110 minutes with 16 actors playing more than 100 characters in Love and Information, her play critiquing modern society’s information overload.

Starring Off-Broadway Spring 2014: (left to right, top to bottom) Jessica Hecht, Cherry Jones, Linda Lavin, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Nina Arianda, Charles Busch

Starring Off-Broadway Spring 2014: (left to right, top to bottom) Jessica Hecht (Stage Kiss), Cherry Jones (When We Were Young And Afraid), Linda Lavin (Too Much Sun), Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Village Bike), Nina Arianda (Tales from Red Vienna), Charles Busch (The Tribute Artist)

Churchill’s play is especially apt for Off-Broadway. Every season, there’s always an overload of choices Off-Broadway. In the next few months, we can choose between musicals about middle-aged sex and about climate change, plays about war and a family falling apart and about a Satanic sock puppet, new works of theater starring Cherry Jones, Jessica Hecht, Nina Arianda, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Charles Busch, two new plays by the last two recipients of the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, Quiara Alegría Hudes and Ayad Akhtar.

Are there must-sees? I’ll tell you — once I see them.

Broadway is much easier – 40 theaters, about 40 new shows a year with clear-cut opening dates, mostly in November and April, striking logos, high-powered publicists and marketers, and usually a familiar or a familiar story, or both.

Off-Broadway is more chaotic, more spread out, more numerous (some 200 theaters/theater companies, depending on how you count) less publicized – and, most serious theatergoers will tell you,  Off Broadway has far richer and more diverse offerings.It is also less expensive. (48 shows Off-Broadway will charge just $20 from January 21 to February 9 as part of the annual 20at20 promotion.)

One thing Off-Broadway offers that Broadway does not* are residential theaters that nurture theater artists and new work. The best way I can think of to preview shows opening Off-Broadway this season is to present the offerings within each of these theaters, starting with the ones I like the most, have the best track record lately, and treat theatergoers well. One advantage of these theaters is that you can become a member/subscribe.

Of course, there is never a guarantee, and some terrific shows pop up in unlikely places.


416 W. 42nd St.

Twitter: @PHNYC

Stage Kiss

February 7 – March 23

Jessica Hecht, who created one of my favorite magical stage moments of 2013 in The Assembled Parties, stars with Dominic Fumusa in Sarah Ruehl’s new play about two actors with a history thrown together as romantic leads in a forgotten 1930s melodrama.

Your Mother’s Copy of the Kama Sutra

March 28 – May 11

In Kirk Lynn’s new play directed by Ann Kauffman, Carla agrees to marry Reggie on one condition: to break down any walls between them, they’ll reenact their individual sexual histories with one another

Fly By Night: A New Musical

May 16 – June 29

Set during the blackout of 1965, a melancholy sandwich-maker encounters two entrancing sisters in this darkly comic rock fable.


signature_01480 West 42nd Street

Twitter: @signaturetheatr

Begun with a focus on the work of a single playwright each season, Signature has expanded , thanks to its new building. And thanks to corporate underwriting, all tickets for the initial runs are $25.

Kung Fu

DavidHenryHwangFebruary 4 to March 16

Cole Horibe (So You Think You Can Dance) stars as Bruce Lee in David Henry Hwang’s new theater piece blending dance, Chinese opera, martial arts and drama to depict Lee’s journey from troubled Hong Kong youth to martial arts legend.

The Open House

February 11 – March 23

A new play by Will Eno that hints at being about a family.


February – March

This new play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins focuses on family confrontation in an old Arkansas plantation after the death of the patriarch and the discovery of a gruesome relic and a surprise visitor.


The theater had a stellar fall season, with Fun Home, The Good Person of Szechuan and the Apple Family Plays.

public_01Twitter: @PublicTheaterNY

Under The Radar

January 8-19

Taking advantage of the relatively fallow period right after the holidays, the Public has presented this festival of new, mostly experimental theater from around the world for ten years. This year’s 16 offerings include shows performed (with English super-titles) in Spanish, Japanese, Dutch (two!), French, and German, but mostly English.  Roger Guenveur Smith, who previously had a one-man show about Huey Newton, now presents Rodney King (remember: “Can we all get along?)

Antony and Cleopatra

February 18-March 17

William Shakespeare’s play edited and directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company transposes the action to 18th century Saint-Domingue on the eve of revolution.

Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 and 3)

March 14-March 23

Suzan-Lori Parks presents a three-part play about a slave during the Civil War. PART 1 introduces us to Hero, a slave who must choose whether or not to join his master on the Confederate battlefield. In PART 2, a band of rebel soldiers test Hero’s loyalty as the cannons approach. PART 3 finds Hero’s loved ones anxiously awaiting his return

 A Second Chance

March 18-April 13

A musical about a recent widower and a divorcée who meet in mid-life, not trusting that they can find love again.

The Civilians’ The Great Immensity 

TheGreatImmensity1April 8-April 27, 2013

A musical about climate change might sound…well-meaning…if it were in hands other than among the most exciting theater artists in town — writer and director Steve Cosson and Michael Friedman (Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson), the leading lights of The Civilians theater company, which has a track record of socially-conscious, theatrically thrilling “investigations.” Phyllis uncovers a mysterious plot surrounding the upcoming international climate summit in Auckland. As the days count down to the Auckland Summit, Phyllis must decipher the plan and possibly stop it in time.


Claire Tow Theater is Lincoln Center’s cutting-edge venue, where tickets are routinely $20.

LincolnCenterlogoTwitter: @LCTheater

Stop Hitting Yourself

January 15 to February 23

The Austin-based theater collective Rude Mechs describes its show as part Pygmalion, part Busby Berkley, part self-help lexicon, borrowing from the plots of 1930’s musicals to dig deep into the contemporary conservative dilemma.

 The City of Conversation

April 10 – June 22

Anthony Giardina’s play, directed by Douglas Hughes, follows a political hostess from the Carter Administration up through the Obama Presidency. This is at the larger (but still Off-Broadway) Mitzi Newhouse.

AyadAkhtarThe Who and The What

May 31- July 13

Ayad Akhtar, who won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his first play Disgraced, returns to Lincoln Center’s  Clare Tow Center for this play about Zarina, an outspoken writer who clashes with her traditional father and sister over her book about women and Islam.


new_york_01Twitter: @NYTW79

 Love and Information

LoveandInformationlogoFebruary 4 – March 23

Caryl Churchill returns for her seventh American premiere at New York Theatre Workshop with a theatrical kaleidoscope exploring more than a hundred characters as they try to make sense of what they find out, in this play that was first produced at the Royal Court Theatre in 2012.



A grim adult-take on the classic fairy tale, by French heater-maker Joël Pommerat


vineyard_01108 East 15th Street

Twitter: @VineyardTheatre


Feb 12 – March 23

Alexandra Silber

Alexandra Silber

Alexandra Silber, whom I loved in She Loves Me and may wind up being the “discovery” of the season, will star in Victor Lodato and Polly Pen’s musical about a women whose husband is away at war.

Too Much Sun

May – June

Linda Lavin stars in this play by Nicky Silver directed by Mark Brokaw (the same team that created The Lyons), about Audrey Langham – a celebrated actress – who unravels completely while preparing for a new production of Medea, and descends on her married daughter, who is not happy to see her.


roundabout_01111 West 46th Street

Dinner With Friends

January 17 – April 13

A revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Donald Margulies, directed by Pam MacKinnon (…Virginia Woolf?, Clybourne Park), about two couples drifting apart. Heather Burns,Marin Hinkle, Darren Pettie and Jeremy Shamos star.

Cutie and Bear

“available only to subscribers and donors”

Bekah Brunstetter’s new play about the relationship between a married man and a broke young woman


second_01Twitter: @2STNYC 

The Happiest Song Plays Last  

HappiestsongsPlayLastLogoFebruary 11 – March 23

This is the concluding play in the trilogy written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, who received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the second in the series, Water by the Spoonful. Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Happiest Song focuses again on cousins Elliot and Yaz,  who have long searched for their place in the community, and now discover the joy in coming home again and the comfort of family, both by blood and by love. It features the music of Nelson Gonzalez.

Sex With Strangers

(dates unclear)

Written by Linda Eason and directed by David Schwimmer, the play follows star sex blogger and memoirist Ethan as he tracks down his idol, the gifted but obscure novelist Olivia, discovering they both crave what the other possesses.


csc_01136 East 13th Street

Twitter: @ClassicStage

A Man’s A Man

AMansAManlogoJanuary 10 – February 16

Justin Vivian Bond stars in this anti-just-about-everything farce by Bertolt Brecht as innocent dockworker Galy Gay in British Colonial India who is enlisted into Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, “dismantled like a car” and reassembled into the ultimate fighting machine.

The Heir Apparent

David Ives (Venus in Fur) adapts Jean-François Regnard‘s comedy about Eraste, who stands to inherit his uncle’s vast fortune, but his uncle refuses to die, and indeed plans to wed Eraste’s fiance! Eraste enlists a servant Crispin for help.


rattle_01Address: 224 Waverly Place, although many of its shows are now presented at the Cherry Lane Theater.

Twitter: @RattlestickNY

RattlestickplaywrightsSpring2014The Correspondent

January 29 – March 16

Ken Urban’s play focuses on a husband grieving the loss of his wife who hires a dying woman to deliver a message to her in the afterlife. Soon after, sure enough, he begins receiving letters from his dead spouse.

Ode to Joy

February 12 – March 30

This play written and directed by Craig Lucas (Prelude to a KissThe Dying Gaul) tells the story of love, heartbreak, addiction, and illness through the eyes of Adele, an audacious painter and her destructive relations with Mala and Bill, her two lover

The Few

April 16 – May 31

In this play by Samuel D. Hunter (The Whale),  Bryan returns to the newspaper he started but abandoned four years ago, and things have changed.  His former lover is filled with rage, his new coworker is filled with incessant adoration, and his paper is filled with personal ads.


MCCTheaterLogoat The Lucille Lortel Theatre
121 Christopher St

Twitter: @MCCTheater

Hand to God

February 19 – March 20

In Robert Askins’ comedy, a foul-mouthed sock puppet named Tyrone teaches the students at the Christian Puppet Ministry about dark urges. This was a hit at Ensemble Studio Theatre several seasons ago.

The Village Bike

May 21 – June 28

Maggie Gyllenhaal will start in this play by Penelope Skinner, directed by Sam Gold, about a pregnant woman whose husband is ignoring her needs. So she buys a used bike that takes her further than she ever expected she’d go.

MTC THEATER* At City Center

mtc_01131 West 55th Street

Twitter: @MTC_NYC

Tales From Red Vienna

February 26 – April 27

Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur) and Kathleen Chalfant (Wit) star in this play by David Grimm, directed by Kate Whoriskey, about a woman who has lost her husband in World War I, and with him, her financial security, so she turns to the oldest profession

When We Were Young and Unafraid

May 22 – August 10

Cherry Jones stars in this play by Sarah Treem, directed by Pam MacKinnon, as a woman who has founded an underground women’s shelter in the early 1970s, with unintended consequences.



410 West 42nd St.

This is a theater company that resides in Theatre Row, the non-profit building that normally rents out to commercial Off-Broadway productions. Scott Elliott is the founding artistic director.


IntimacyJanuary 14 – March 8

Thomas Bradshaw’s new play presents three families in a well-manicured, multi-racial American town when secrets and sexual desires suddenly explode.


April 13 – June 1

Sharr White (The Other Place, Snow Geese has written a new play about Emma (Megan Mullally) who 20 years ago walked out on her husband, cowboy-poet Ulysses (Nick Offerman), in the middle of the night. Now, hearing he’s in dire straits, she tracks him down in the wilds of Colorado


The Tribute Artist (Primary Stages at 59E59, January 21 – March 16, 2014) In his new play, Charles Busch portrays an out-of-work female impersonator who takes on the identity of the landlady of his Greenwich Village townhouse when she dies in her sleep.

Sartre’s No Exit at the Pearl Theatre Company from Feb. 25

Between Riverside and Crazy… by Stephen Adly Guirgis is about an ex-cop and recent widower and his ex-con son’s struggle to hold on to their rent-stabilized apartment. (May, Atlantic Theater Company)

*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), and the Roundabout Theater Company. Their Broadway offerings are listed in my Broadway Spring 2014 Preview Guide

What Is Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway?

Off-Broadway theaters, by definition, have anywhere from 99 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 Flea, Labyrinth Theater, and LaMaMa ETC


 New York Theatre Opening Night Calendar


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