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  • Photograph: Valentina Bianchi

    Alexis. A Greek Tragedy

    Alexis. A Greek Tragedy

  • Goodbar

    Goodbar

  • Photograph: Biriken

    Lick But Don't Swallow!

    Lick But Don't Swallow!

  • Photograph: James Gibbs

    Sontag: Reborn

    Sontag: Reborn

  • Photograph: Masahiko Yakou

    The Bee

    The Bee

  • Photograph: Big Art Group

    Broke House

    Broke House

  • Photograph: Steve Gunther

    Cattywampus

    Cattywampus

  • Photograph: Tina Satter

    Away Uniform

    Away Uniform

  • Photograph: Richard Fleischman

    Chimera

    Chimera

  • Photograph: Toru Yokota

    Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech

    Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech

  • Photograph: Maciej Zurawiecki

    In the Solitude of Cotton Fields

    In the Solitude of Cotton Fields

  • Photograph: Blind Summit

    The Table

    The Table

  • Photograph: Jati Lindsay

    Word Becomes Flesh

    Word Becomes Flesh

  • Courtesy of Rabih Mrou

    Looking for a Missing Employee

    Looking for a Missing Employee

  • Photograph: Almudena Crespo

    El pasado es un animal grotesco

    El pasado es un animal grotesco

  • Photograph: Jeff Sugg

    This Clement World

    This Clement World

  • Mission Drift

  • Photograph: Scott Fetterman

    Newyorkland

    Newyorkland

  • Photograph: Blaine Davis

    Untitled Feminist Show

    Untitled Feminist Show

Photograph: Valentina Bianchi

Alexis. A Greek Tragedy

Alexis. A Greek Tragedy

New York theatergoers these days know not to overindulge over the holidays, since come January, they need to be in marathon condition. That's because savvy experimental theater festivals have mushroomed downtown, capitalizing on the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference, which floods the city with curators looking for pieces to book. This year's festivals include Under the Radar 2012, Coil Festival 2012, Other Forces and American Realness. Below are the main theatrical offerings.

See our story about the various festivals and what the producers say about the lineups. And keep checking this page as reviews, stories and blog posts come in.

Coil Festival 2012:

Looking for a Missing Employee and The Pixelated Revolution
Lebanese actor, writer and director Rabih Mrou makes his U.S. debut with a piece about a missing office worker, concocted from newspaper clippings and conjecture. In The Pixelated Revolution, Mrou explores the role social media and mobile phones played during the recent Syrian revolution. CLOSED.

Mission Drift
One of New York's premier troupes creating ensemble-devised plays, the TEAM presents its latest theatrical brainstorm. This time, the "epic musical" offers audiences an overflowing grab bag of topics and tropes: the American West, atom bombs, Elvis Presley, cowboys, boom-and-bust economics, and plenty of gospel and country ballads. Read Adam Feldman's TONY review here. Through Feb 4 at the Connelly Theater.

Newyorkland
Local performance group Temporary Distortion explores the myths and realities surrounding life in the NYPD in this police drama. Read Helen Shaw's TONY review here. Through Feb 4 at the Baryshnikov Arts Center.

Untitled Feminist Show
Playwright-director Young Jean Lee explores gender fluidity through extensive use of dance and naked performers. Expect to be made uncomfortable, enlightened and maybe both. Through Feb 4 at the Baryshnikov Arts Center.

Other Forces:

Away Uniform
We were big fans of camp-feminist auteur Tina Satter's girl-on-pigskin comedy, In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL, and now comes "an unexpected companion piece and darker heartbeat," inspired by the earlier play. Working with the marvelous Jess Barbagallo, Satter creates a more abstract piece about family, teamwork and belief. CLOSED.

Critics' Pick Cattywampus
Writer-director Robert Cucuzza (a veteran of Richard Foreman and Elevator Repair Service) presents his own American spin on the Strindberg classic Miss Julie. In it, downtown all-star D.J. Mendel is a sinewy used-car detailer doing a dangerous two-step with a the company boss's bored wife. Read Diane Snyder's TONY review here. Through Jan 21 at the Incubator Arts Project.

American Realness:

Broke House
Big Art Group takes inspiration from Chekhov's Three Sisters in its latest high-tech performance. On a bare stage, the company constructs and dismantles the wooden skeleton of a house as they simultaneously film a documentary of its residents. Through Jan 14 at the Abrons Arts Center.

This Clement World
Wondrously unique singer-performer Cynthia Hopkins explores the climate crisis in this new work-in-progress. Some of the characters Hopkins channels include a Native American Cheyenne woman, an extraterrestrial visitor and a child from the future who travels back to our present. With music and multimedia. CLOSED.

Under the Radar 2012:

Alexis. A Greek Tragedy
Enrico Casagrande and Daniela Nicol, of the Italian company Motus, create a stylized docudrama inspired by the real-life police shooting of 15-year-old student Alexandros Grigoropoulos, an event that touched off Greek riots in 2008. Read Helen Shaw's TONY review here. Also, read a Q&A with the directors of the troupe. CLOSED.

The Bee
Japanese superstar director Hideki Noda brings us The Bee: the most tonally disjointed, nauseating thing I think I've ever seen. Presented as a black comedy, with lots of supposedly jolly circus-inspired staging techniques, the story follows a man (Kathryn Hunter, in male drag), who discovers his family has been taken hostage. The press and the police are vulgar fools; his only choice seems to be to retaliate in kind, to kidnap the hostage-taker's own family. Eye-for-an-eye justice turns rapidly into child's-finger-for-child's-finger vengeance, and then the men rape and mutilate each other's wives to death. Ha-ha? The problem certainly isn't the show's pedigree; Noda is a prolific, beloved international artist and Hunter is the same extraordinary creature who was the terrifying highlight of last year's Beckett Fragments. So why is The Bee so unremittingly awful to watch? Why is this particular mix of horror and comedy so punishing? Perhaps because Tarantino-esque revenge fantasias need more beauty than clowning mise en scne can provide in order to filter past our moral baleen. Or perhaps Tarantino-esque revenge fantasias were never a good idea to begin with. I truly don't know. I can only say that this fable (staged inventively and performed energetically) may be meant as a kind of aversion therapy for the violent, but it very nearly cured me of going back to the theater.—Helen Shaw CLOSED.

Chimera
In Suli Holum and Deborah Stein's multimedia techno thriller, a woman discovers that she is her own twin. The piece explores medical chimerism—the phenomenon of containing two different sets of DNA within one body. Read Helen Shaw's TONY review here. Through Jan 28 at HERE.

Critics' Pick El pasado es un animal grotesco
Four young Argentines live, love and lose them in Buenos Aires (and other locales) from 1999 to 2009 in writer-director Mariano Pensotti's bittersweet and cleverly staged panorama. Pensotti is one of Argentina's leading stage auteurs, and this deeply moving tapestry of human experience will show you why. Performed in Spanish with English supertitles. Read David Cote's TONY review here. CLOSED.

Goodbar
The audience at this hyperextended concept concert gets ear plugs at the door. How about an eye mask? The music in Goodbar, loud and moody-glam, is actually the best part of this collaboration between the rock group Bamb and the theater collective Waterwell, whose Venn-diagram intersection comprises the talented actor-singers Hanna Cheek and Kevin Townley. As a longtime admirer of everyone involved, I regret to report that the current version of the show—which has been in desultory development for years—is dramaturgically inert: an inchoate lump of sound and video that undercuts its own momentum at every turn. The show strikes occasionally compelling poses but offers no strong take on its source material, the 1970s cautionary tale Looking for Mr. Goodbar, which did its best to scare women from sex. Much of the creators' approach implies knowing irony; the video includes winky cameos by such disparate figures as Ira Glass, Bobby Cannavale, Kelli O'Hara, Reggie Watts and Under the Radar curator Mark Russell, plus an affectingly low-key turn by Brendan Donaldson as an overlooked suitor of our doomed antiheroine. But the piece is mostly performed with a self-seriousness that suggests early-1980s Berlin more than New York of the 1970s or today. Cheek is a sensational performer, and when Goodbar take a rare pause for narrative flow, we glimpse the embryo of a less edgy but more cutting musical-theater piece—one that doesn't seem in such a panic about being theater at all. Then it's back to wacky costumes, distracting montages, dancers in fox masks and uncomfortable audience silence between songs. Goodbar may improve one day. But don't look now.—Adam Feldman CLOSED.

Critics' Pick Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner and the Farewell Speech
With this triptych of short plays, writer-director Toshiki Okada solidifies his reputation for the expertly crafted ultrabanal, the elevation of workplace chat to Alexandrine perfection. There's less erotic pulse than his Five Days in March and less wicked humor than his Enjoy, but Hot Pepper has the time to become a rarified example of the Okada murmur; it has same relationship to most narrative work as Merce Cunningham's astringent formalism does to The Nutcracker. The three sections involve a set of office conversations, each repetitive and self-serving, each cycling multiple times, each paralyzing. But while these temps and full-timers drone on about farewell parties (everyone's job is always at risk) or a dying cicada (drones within drones), the performers are simultaneously moving through a strange series of quasi-improvised movements, riffing off one another in echo of the beautiful jazz underscoring. Okada's cast does an incredible job of placing naturalistic expressions and voices on top of angular and drifting bodies; they sometimes look like those eerie cartoons of flowers with faces. It's a strange and funny evening, one that has taken many talents working at fever pitch (Aya Ogawa delivers another tiptop Okada translation, the stage itself has been purpose-built in the Japan Society foyer) to make a scant hour seem timeless and slow.—Helen Shaw CLOSED.

Critics' Pick In the Solitude of the Cotton Fields
Oh, the tragicomedy of watching a room full of sober international presenters totally failing to rock out. On Thursday, nary a silver head bobbed, nor a pair of Bauhaus glasses frames wobbled as the Polish techno-meets-punk group Natural Born Chillers went crazy onstage for the savage young production of Bernard-Marie Kolts's In the Solitude of the Cotton Fields. And while all those unmoving auditors do throw a damper on the room, it's a tiny drawback that I encourage you to overcome. Radosaw Rychcik's club-set production plants Wojciech Niemczyk and Tomasz Nosinski at two microphones, roaring elliptical come-ons to each other over the pulse of the band. They jockey for transactional dominance, spasm through dances, make out a little bit and wear white socks with their black suits. It's a rollicking, hyperweird, perfectly Polish version of Koltes's Artaudian script, and the Chillers are only now working their way out of my bloodstream. Can you always read the supertitles through the smoke? Not as such. Is it punkrock to give a damn? Fuck nie.—Helen Shaw CLOSED.

Lick but Don't Swallow!
The sacred and the profane mingle in zen Yula's Turkish philosophical comedy about an angel that comes to earth in the body of a porn star. The show was previously performed once—only once—in Istanbul, before fundamentalist protests shut it down. CLOSED.

Critics' PickSontag: Reborn
Game-changing 1960s social theorist and critic Susan Sontag gets the multimedia biographical treatment in this new work by the Builders Association. Text for the performance is edited by Sontag's son, David Rieff, based on his book. Read David Cote's TONY review here. CLOSED.

The Table
English puppet troupe Blind Summit (which created the stunning Bunraku child in Anthony Minghella's production of Madama Butterfly) creates a darkly whimsical phantasmagoria that combines the Bible, Beckett and Ikea. CLOSED.

Word Becomes Flesh
Spoken-word soloist Marc Bamuthi Joseph reconceives his urban meditation on fathers and sons for an ensemble cast that fuses poetry, music and hip-hop dance. CLOSED.

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