January is when Broadway takes a breather, as many productions close and the industry revs up for its annual monster-truck-show chaos in the early spring. For theatergoers, the emphasis shifts to smaller shows, including those at the city’s many Off-Off Broadway festivals in the middle of the month. The sheer volume of intimate shows with short runs in January can be disorienting. But lodged among the many cool, weird offerings are a few that we’ve already seen and liked—part of the happy emerging trend of what we’ve dubbed encore presentations. Here are four shows that we’ve enjoyed in the past that will be back for brief engagements in January; be sure to nails down your tickets fast, because there aren’t many seats.
I Understand Everything Better: David Neumann’s dance-theater piece, a response to the death of his parents, earned five stars from Time Out’s Helen Shaw last April. "Conceived by Neumann and written in collaboration with Sibyl Kempson, the play's allusions to Japanese performance emphasize how precision can be more emotionally terrible than obvious effort,” Shaw wrote. "He has long been one of the most elegantly hilarious dancers in town—Gene Kelly's gliding strength under a comedian's sly face—but here he makes something for his company, Advanced Beginner Group, that feels genuinely important, both to the form and to minds of those who see it.” The piece, which features set design by recent MacArthur “genius" grantee Mimi Lien, will be at the Chocolate Factory for six performances (January 10-16) under the aegis of P.S. 122’s Coil Festival. Buy tickets for $20 here.
Biter (Every Time I Turn Around): Vicious clowns, a talking fish and a one-eyed postman are just a few of the elements in this gonzo experimental comedy by Ryan William Downey and Spencer Thomas Campbell. "What sets the evening apart from crazy-for-crazy's-sake theater is the directorial team's fierce understanding of comic techniques (repetition, physical lazzi) and the ensemble's uniform excellence,” wrote Helen Shaw in May. "There's also the playwrights' astonishing pace, which means that low-humor laughs syncopate with the slower-burn humor from the script.” Tickets were impossible to score back then, but the show will be back at Brooklyn’s Silent Barn for six performances (January 14–23) as part of the brand-new Exponential Festival. Buy tickets for $10 here.
Toilet Fire: The Exponential Festival is also hosting a return of Eliza Bent’s scatological almost-solo show, set up as a mock church service for people with digestive complaints. "The proceedings are simultaneously absurd and comfortingly familiar—a lot like real religious rituals,” wrote our Jenna Scherer in her review. "Both as a performance artist and a wry confessor, Bent makes an impression. She's this generation's answer to Amy Sedaris: frank, weird and immensely likable.” The show will be performed just twice, on January 15 and 16; the latter performance features a guest shot by Bent’s husband, the gifted composer Dave Malloy (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812). Buy tickets for $18 here.
Gary Busey’s One-Man Hamlet as Performed by David Carl: Comic writer-performer Carl puts Shakespeare through the unusual filter of wild-man thespian Gary Busey in this wacky show, which we caught at the Fringe Festival back in 2014. "Carl’s 80-minute solo is as much stupid fun as its title suggests,” wrote David Cote of the Fringe version. "Employing paper puppets (bearing the actor’s face, of course) and interactive video, Carl and director Michole Biancosino take us on a psychotic ride through the tragedy’s five acts…It’s crazy hilarious.” After a successful trip to Edinburgh this past August, Carl now brings the silliness back to New York at the cozy PIT Loft for three 10:30pm shows, January 14–16. Buy tickets for $20 here.
RECOMMENDED: See more Under the Radar festival coverage