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Photograph: Courtesy Maria BaranovaSkinnamarink (Little Lord)

Off-Off Broadway shows in NYC

Looking for the best Off-Off Broadway shows? Here are the most promising productions at NYC’s smaller venues right now.

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman
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Broadway and Off Broadway productions get most of the attention, but to get a true sense of the range and diversity of New York theater, you need to look to the smaller productions collectively known as Off-Off Broadway. There are about 200 Off-Off Broadway spaces in New York, mostly with fewer than 99 seats. Experimental plays thrive in New York's best Off-Off Broadway venues; that's where you'll find many of the city's most challenging and original works. But Off-Off is more than just the weird stuff: It also includes everything from magic shows to revivals of rarely seen classics, and it's a good place to get early looks at major rising talents. What's more, it tends to be affordable; while cheap Broadway tickets can be hard to find, most Off-Off Broadway shows are in the $15–$25 range. Here are some of the current shows that hold the most promise.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Off Broadway shows in NYC 

Off-Off Broadway shows in NYC

  • Theater
  • Interactive
  • price 3 of 4
  • Bushwick

No show in town offers as intimate an experience as this interactive experience in Bushwick that has been created to be performed for just five audience members at a time. A surreal look at the nature of ritual and ceremony, Bottom of the Ocean is the third production from Andrew Hoepfner’s company Houseworld Immersive, and draws on techniques that Hoepfner explored previously in Houseworld and Whisperlodge. It is staged at Gymnopedie, a multiroom space that has been created by restoring 5,500 square feet of the 19th-century basement at Bushwick United Methodist Church.  RECOMMENDED: An exclusive first look at NYC's most intimate immersive show

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Circuses & magic
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown East

After more than 15 years at the Waldorf Astoria, Steve Cohen, billed as the Millionaires’ Magician, now conjures his high-class parlor magic in the marble-columned Madison Room at the swank Lotte New York Palace. Audiences must dress to be impressed (cocktail attire is required); tickets start at $100, with an option to pay more for meet-and-greet time and extra tricks with Cohen after the show. But if you've come to see a classic-style magic act, you get what you pay for. Sporting a tuxedo and bright rust hair, the magician delivers routines that he has buffed to a patent-leather gleam: In addition to his signature act—"Think-a-Drink," involving a kettle that pours liquids by request—highlights include a lulu of levitation trick and a card-trick finale that leaves you feeling like, well, a million bucks.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Circuses & magic
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Once a week, after closing time, 10 people convene at the city’s oldest magic shop, Tannen’s, for a cozy evening of prestidigitation by the young and engaging Noah Levine. The shelves are crammed with quirky devices; there's a file cabinet behind the counter, a mock elephant in the corner and bins of individual trick instructions in plastic covers, like comic books or sheet music. The charm of Levine's show is in how well it fits the environment of this magic-geek chamber of secrets. As he maneuvers cards, eggs, cups and balls with aplomb, he talks shop, larding his patter with tributes to routines like the Stencel Aces and the Vernon Boat Trick—heirlooms of his trade that he gently polishes and displays for our amazement.

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  • Theater
  • Circuses & magic
  • price 2 of 4
  • Greenwich Village

For more than two decades, this proudly old-school series has offered a different lineup of professional magicians every week: a host, opening acts and a headliner, plus two or three close-up magicians to wow the audience at intermission. Housed since 2011 at the unprepossessing Players Theatre, it is an heir to the vaudeville tradition. Many of the acts incorporate comedic elements, and audience participation is common. (If you have children, bring them; they make especially adorable assistants.) Shows cost just $42.50 in advance and typically last well over two hours, so you get a lot of value and variety for your magic dollar. In contrast to some fancier magic shows, this one feels like comfort food: an all-you-can-eat buffet to which you’re encouraged to return until you’re as stuffed as a hat full of rabbits. For a full schedule, visit the MNM website.

  • Theater
  • Comedy
  • price 2 of 4
  • Williamsburg

Relive the epic sinking feeling of James Cameron's Titanic through Michael Kinnan's one-man show, in which he condenses the 1996 disaster-romance blockbuster into one affectionately comedic hour. The show returns to the Brick for an encore run after a buzzy engagement last year; with minimal costumes and props, Kinnan once again plays all the roles.

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  • Theater
  • Off-Off Broadway
  • price 1 of 4
  • East Village

Frigid New York hosts this annual showcase of subversive LGBTQ comedy, storytelling, short film and theater, curated by Jimmy Lovett. Offerings include an improvised showing of As You Will by William Shakespeare, a drag show "Come What May: An Evening with Lena Horné," a drag king special based on the lives of the so-called "Great Men of History," and "Thank You For Coming Out," an intentional space where the performers know their queerness is the superpower of the scene and not the joke.

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