This is the time of year—summer ripening, and the heat and stench increasing—when one’s thoughts turn to vacation days and foreign locales. If you’re a theater addict, you start to think of festivals around the world that offer exotic alternatives. So three cheers for the Lincoln Center Festival: The annual sampler of theater from far-flung lands fills a gap in our spectating and allows a big-picture glimpse of different cultures. Sure, you can grumble that Lincoln Center Fest chief Nigel Redden has yet to bring over Italian director Romeo Castellucci or British durational troupe Forced Entertainment, but we’re still thrilled that each year we travel the globe without leaving home. Here’s a rundown of this year’s main events. If you want to book tickets, do so now. All (except In Paris) still have seats.
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Where in the world? This is an all-Scots affair: actor Alan Cumming, director John Tiffany (of Broadway’s Once and the amazing Black Watch) and, of course, Shakespeare’s Scottish Play. Expect a burr-filled evening.
What’s the big idea? While this stylized production is not exactly a one-man Macbeth, Cumming does handle all the speaking roles. He performs the text as a traumatized madman in an asylum. Other actors play staffers.
Where in the world? Great for Celtic-culture vultures. Druid Theatre Company is one of Ireland’s most established troupes, and Tom Murphy is one of the Emerald Isle’s most revered dramatists. Over here, not so much.
What’s the big idea? Director Garry Hynes means to fill the Murphy gap in New York with revivals of three of his plays: Conversations on a Homecoming (1985), A Whistle in the Dark (1961) and Famine (1968). Rageful and bitter, they’ve influenced writers as diverse as Harold Pinter and Conor McPherson. Seventeen actors perform the works in repertory, or for nine and a half hours on marathon days.
Where in the world? Although this show was developed at Switzerland’s Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, it is primarily the work of Chinese puppeteer Yeung Faï.
What’s the big idea? Yeung is a master of the hand puppet, using them to tell intimate stories from his life. For example, he recounts how his grandfather, another great puppeteer, died in prison during China’s Cultural Revolution.
Where in the world? Australia (Sydney Theatre Company) and Hungary (director Tamás Ascher) both get bragging rights for one of the festival’s most buzzy productions.
What’s the big idea? Cate Blanchett stars as the beautiful, languorous Yelena in this supposedly stunning version of the Anton Chekhov classic about small lives and big dreams. Ascher’s Ivanov two years back showed his ability to make Chekhov raw again.
Where in the world? Visionary Moscow director Dmitry Krymov teams with Mikhail Baryshnikov for this multimedia exploration of the émigré experience.
What’s the big idea? Based on a short story by Ivan Bunin, Krymov’s production fuses movement, mime, video and painterly tableaux to tell the story of a Russian general who falls in love with a fellow exile in a restaurant. Baryshnikov hasn’t appeared in a nondancing role since 2007’s Beckett Shorts, so the five-day run has, predictably, sold out. However, you can try showing up to get on the waiting list.