There just aren't enough Off-Off lounges where you can kick back with wine or beer before a particularly grueling avant-garde multimedia deconstruction. HERE is a welcome oasis in the preshow nosh desert. 145 Sixth Ave between Dominick and Spring Sts (212-647-0202, here.org)
Need a shot of caffeine before you check out the downtown institution's newest revival? Everyman Espresso operates a counter in the venue's casual brick-lined lobby, with half a dozen cafe tables and chairs. Buy an Americano, grab a table, and read a chapter before curtain. 136 E 13th St between Third and Fourth Aves (212-677-4210, classicstage.org)
No other space has the airy, uncluttered acreage of this converted movie house, which is filled with five stages featuring group-friendly fare. Add the lobby and hallways' Euro-airport vibe and two well-stocked bars and you've got yourself a bachelorette (or bachelor) party. 340 W 50th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (newworldstages.com)
The exposed brick and distressed interior of BAM's smaller space evokes performance that is daring, international and rich with history. Modeled after Peter Brook's Paris HQ, Bouffes du Nord, the space makes you expect what Brook calls "holy" theater. 651 Fulton St between Ashland and Rockwell Pls, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-636-4100, bam.org)
Hanging on for dear life in the increasingly gentrified precincts of Dumbo, this ex--spice-milling factory is a great place to hang out and feel part of a thriving theater scene. Head honcho Susan Feldman keeps the space hopping with world-class music, performance and plays. Grab a beer in the hangar-like lobby before or after curtain. 38 Water St between Dock and Main Sts, Dumbo, Brooklyn (718-254-8779, stannswarehouse.org)
Okay, it's a little creaky and dim and desperately in need of a millionaire patron, but this club for theatrical folk is soaked in the history of the stage (more than 120 years of it). We love the second-floor library full of obscure plays from the early 20th century, and have enjoyed numerous readings at the monthly Project Shaw events. Grab a martini and fling a quip. 16 Gramercy Park South between Park Ave South and Irving Pl (212-475-6116, theplayersnyc.org)
This hair-metal comedy tuner is the only show on Broadway that actively encourages you to guzzle hard liquor, be rude, flick your lighter and sing along with the actors. , 256 W 47th St between Broadway and Eighth Ave (877-250-2929, rockofagesmusical.com). Mon 8pm; Tue 7pm; Thu, Fri 8pm; Sat 2, 8pm; Sun 3, 7:30pm. $46.50--$119.50.
Few shows have as much audience-performer synergy as the Green Day punk opera. Although rushing the stage is not encouraged, the performers expect (and cultivate) an ecstatic rock-concert vibe. , 246 W 44th St between Broadway and Eighth Ave (212-239-6200, americanidiotonbroadway.com). Tue 7pm; Wed--Fri 8pm; Sat 2, 8pm; Sun 3, 7:30pm. $32--$127.
Williamsburg's scrappy proliferator of smart-alecky themed festivals (Moral Values, Anti-Depressant et al.) is for the nerds, outcasts and mad experimenters of theater. That includes both creators and spectators. 575 Metropolitan Ave between Lorimer St and Union Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-907-6189, bricktheater.com)
Diqui James—the man behind De La Guarda and co-creator of this high-impact, eye-popping spectacle with musical director/composer Gaby Kerpel—actually wants your childlike participation in this industrial rave-cum-spectacle. You can run, dance, touch performers—or simply stare in wonder like a little kid. , 101 E 15th St at Union Sq East (212-239-6200, telecharge.com). Wed--Fri 8pm; Sat 7, 10pm; Sun 7pm. $79.
La Cage aux Folles
Drag queens mingle with audiences in the lobby before the show, so why not show up at this heartwarming yet risqu revival rocking your best fishnets and evening dress? , 220 W 48th St between Broadway and Eighth Ave (212-239-6200, lacage.com). Tue 8pm; Wed 2:30, 8pm; Thu, Fri 8pm; Sat 2:30, 8pm; Sun 3pm. $36.50--$132.50, premium $251.50.
This is the sort of old-school theater-district eatery that cheesy diners in other cities try to imitate. Joe Allen has gruff, unpretentious character, neat show posters, good food and the sort of zippy energy you only get from a room full of show people. 326 W 46th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-581-6464, joeallenrestaurant.com)
Americans perennially lament: Where is our national theater? We don't have one, kids; but the Public is the closest thing we're going to get. The house that Joe Papp built remains an intense hive of creativity and multicultural excitement. 425 Lafayette St between Astor Pl and E 4th St (212-967-7555, publictheater.org)
They say a New Yorker doesn't have to travel the world: It all comes here. Likewise, in BAM's two spaces (the Howard Gilman Opera House and the BAM Harvey Theater) you can experience the best of theater, dance and opera from around the globe. Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Avenue between Ashland Pl and St. Felix St, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-636-4100, bam.org)
Emo rock, Andrew Jackson, casual references to Michel Foucault and Susan Sontag, and really funny, nasty jokes about Native Americans. Only in New York could this snarky piece of heaven make it to Broadway. , 242 W 45th St between Broadway and Eighth Ave (212-239-6200, bloodybloodyandrewjackson.com). Mon, Tue, Thu 7pm; Fri 8pm; Sat 2, 8pm; Sun 2, 7pm. $51.50--$131.50, premium $171.50--$251.50.
Although Tony Kushner's two-part epic about AIDS, Reagan, faith, love and loyalty has been done in every regional house and college campus around the country, we finally get it back where it belongs, in a lovingly crafted revival at the Signature Theatre Company. , 555 W 42nd St between Tenth and Eleventh Aves (212-244-7529, signaturetheatre.org). Tue--Fri 7:30pm; Wed matinee times vary; Sat 2, 8pm; Sun 2, 7:30pm. $20, after Dec 21 $85.
Elevator Repair Service is a troupe of downtown deconstructionists that has been around for nearly 20 years. Although ERS has offered plenty of brilliant work all this time, Gatz—an eight-hour recitation of every word of The Great Gatsby—is in a class all its own. We can't imagine any other city giving birth to a company such as ERS. , 425 Lafayette St between Astor Pl and E 4th St (212-967-7555, publictheater.org). Wed, Fri, Sat 3pm; Sun 2pm. $140.
See shows on Broadway before they close in January
A combination of limited runs and diminishing box-office receipts means that every January, shows close in droves. This year, make sure you check out ; ; ; ; ; ; and . All will be gone by January 9.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a chorus line of gorgeous women, legs bared, kicking in unison with smiles plastered on their faces. Plus, Santa Claus and the Living Nativity! This venerable, bizarre, magnificent holiday tradition runs the gamut. , 1260 Sixth Ave between 50th and 51st Sts (866-858-0007, radiocitychristmas.com) Fri 5--Dec 30. $45--$105.