Off-Off Broadway shows in NYC
Tom and Betsy Salamon’s unique adventure—part interactive theater, part scavenger hunt, part walking tour—draws participants into an amusing web of puzzles and intrigue. You can choose between the three-hour New York tour, which takes participants through various neighborhoods of lower Manhattan, or the two-hour Village tour, which travels through quirky Greenwich Village. Groups of as many as 11 are booked every half hour.
Theater review by Helen Shaw [Note: The following is a review of the production of Antigone in Ferguson at Harlem Stage in 2018. The production returns for an encore run at Brooklyn's St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church May 8–July 13, 2019. The rotating cast is scheduled to include Amy Ryan, Chris Noth, Paul Giamatti, Jumaane Williams, Kathryn Erbe, Obi Abili, Linda Powell, Josh Hamilton and David Strathairn.] Antigone in Ferguson's title is little misleading. In its first section, Bryan Doerries’s Theater of War production is not actually far different from Sophocles’ original tragedy. Its story of Thebes, torn apart by the conflicting claims of authority and conscience, still has all its ancient Greek trappings, and any association you make with certain events near St. Louis is, it seems, up to you. Doerries has given the cast—a rotating rep of fine film, theater and television actors (such as Frankie Faison, Tate Donovan, Samira Wiley and Paul Giamatti)—a trim hour-long version, and they perform it sitting at music stands, reading from scripts. Behind them a tip-top band and a choir full of gospel powerhouses sings Phil Woodmore’s wonderful settings of Sophocles’ famous choruses. No one tells us that the dead boy Polyneices could also be called Michael Brown; no one hints that Antigone—his sister, who buries his body in defiance of her uncle King Creon—could be a Black Lives Matters protestor. How, you wonder, did they get that title? RECOMMENDED: Antigone in Ferguson
Hudson Warehouse begins its 2019 summer season at Riverside Park with a new account of Shakespeare's intercultural romantic tragedy, featuring Ben Farmer and Emily Sarah Cohn in the title roles. George K. Wells directs a production that merges modern and ancient elements.
Fans of musical theater will get a kick out of watching improvisers shamelessly employ the genres' tropes to create a hilarious new musical at each performance. Have your smartphone charged and handy to submit suggestions; then kick back and watch these top-notch performers go to work.
In this wild-minded new play by Ciara Griffin and Lummi writer Kendra Mylnechuk Potter, a would-be environmental activist finds herself in a Wyoming jail cell with a dead bison calf, its mother and a local rancher. Mason Wagner directs the premiere at the Tank.
Writer-director-choreographer Sean Donovan puts on a fourth hat as the costar of his new multimedia piece about three queer guys in a cabin in the woods. Fellow performers Tyler Ashley and Brandon Washington share the choreography credit for this world premiere about the nature of storytelling; the production features original music by Heather Christian.
Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori's superb 2003 portrait of a maid in 1963 Louisiana is one of the great musicals of the past 50 years. After a too-brief run on Broadway, the show has had acclaimed productions since, including in Chicago and in London just last year—but not, until now, a revival in New York. Directed by Dev Bondarin for the scrappy Astoria Performing Arts Center, this is a rare chance to see a beautiful work of art on its feet. LaDonna Burns plays the title role.
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.
The Night Shift hosts this inebriated monthly reading of Shakespearean monologues. Want to see if you can recite Hamlet’s soliloquy after a few brews? Step up to the mic—or just sit back and soak in the iambs. (Sign-up begins at 7:30pm for the 8pm event.)
A man looks back on an event that changed his small town forever in this innovative multimedia work by Scotland's Tortoise in a Nutshell. Directed by Ross MacKay, the piece—which employs puppetry, a live soundtrack and projection effects, but no spoken words—has been presented around the world since its 2013 premiere in Scotland; it now makes its U.S. debut in 59E59's Brits Off Broadway festival.
The Drilling Company begins its sixth season at Bryant Park with a gender-shifted accoount of Shakespeare's wordy tragedy, where a ghost and a prince meet and everyone ends in mincemeat. Karla Hendrick directs a cast led by Jane Bradley as the mopey Dane.
Black Henna Productions, in association with Theatre Beyond Broadway, moves among several NYC parks with a 90-minute adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy about revenge and procrastination. This version, which stars Ian McDonald in the title role, emphasizes the story's Viking roots by moving the action back 500 years to the 10th century.
In this drama by Emily J. Daly, the friends of an idealistic young woman who has been killed in Afghanistan fight to defend her memory against Internet assaults. Emily Lyon directs the premiere.
New York Classical Theatre mounts a free alfresco production of Oscar Wilde's dazzlingly epigrammatic upper-class farce, directed by Stephen Burdman. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the production features conventional casting; on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, the entire cast switches roles to play characters of the other gender.
After more than a decade performing Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, an ever-changing collection of 30 two-minutes plays, the New York Neo-Futurists had to change course when piece's author pulled the rights abruptly in 2016. Now the troupe performs an entirely different ever-changing collection of two-minute plays called The Infinite Wrench. Click here for our full write-up.
Theater review by Helen Shaw The level of control in Bailey Williams’s exquisite I thought I would die but I didn’t isn’t apparent at first. In the play’s bizarre initial scenes, things actually seem pretty loosey-goosey. A shut-in young woman (Williams, in supersad sweatpants) lives in an existentially porous apartment, crunching on aspirin and wondering where the kitchen went. Wasn’t it there a minute ago? And what about the TV? She could swear she was just watching Law & Order. Her roommate (a superb Matthew Bovee) steps directly through the wall—a stretchy white membrane that lets whole couches slide in and out—and a freaky neighbor (Yonatan Gebeyehu) tries to get her interested in balloons. Their language is formal and stilted: “Welcome home to our shared apartment!” she cries, as a smiling Bovee pops into view. This beginning has the kind of oddness you might feel you’ve seen before; even the air of menace is familiar. A number of High Weird plays rev their engines by referring to a mysterious event in the past—something no one wants to talk about. (Hauntings are big now; ditto for weird shrieks.) But then the play smash-cuts into another style, and the stylization of Sarah Blush’s direction leans farther into the strange. Suddenly we’re in a true-crime documentary about a violent murder, rendered with the idiotic portentousness of the genre’s most lurid examples. Bovee is our host; Williams is an expert witness; Gebeyehu is all the other figures at once. Another sma
St. Ann's Puppet Lab, now in its 20th year, presents its annual showcase of works-in-progress by avant-garde object manipulators, divided into two separate programs.
A family holds onto hope amid the desolation of the Dust Bowl in a historical drama written and directed by Axis Company's Randy Sharp.
The 19th season of this Obie-winning series of new performance continues with original work by Kevin Augustine, Darcy Burke and Miki Yamanaka, Madison Krekel, Victor Morales, and Chana Porter and Kate Watson-Wallace.
Twice a week, after closing time, 20 people crowd into 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.
Every two years, Ensemble Studio Theatre presents a buffet of one-acts, divided into three programs. In this 37th edition, Series A (May 12–June 1) features works by Daniel Damiano, Amy Fox, Dan Giles, Lily Houghton and Jon Kern; Series B (May 28–June 28) includes pieces by Harron Atkins, Cayenne Douglas, Susan Kim, Amanda Quaid and Carole Real; and Series C (June 9–June 29) offers plays by Kate Atwell, France-Luce Benson, Stephen Brown, Julia Specht and Lloyd Suh.
Torn Out Theater, colloquially known as Naked Shakespeare in the Park, specializes in nude productions of the classics, presented in the open air and free of charge. This summer it returns to Prospect Park with a collection of scenes from its previous three shows—Hamlet, The Tempest and The Rover—as well as selections from other works including The Taming of the Shew and Richard III.
For 21 years, this proudly old-school series has offered a different lineup of professional magicians every week: opening acts, a headliner and a host, plus two or three close-up magicians to wow the audience at intermission. Housed for the past seven years 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 young children, bring them; they make especially adorable assistants.) Shows cost just $37.50 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.
The Drilling Company wraps up its 2019 Bryant Park season with an account of the Bard's fast-paced tragedy of jealousy and misplaced trust, in which a villain preys on the insecurities of a Moorish war hero married to a white woman.
Lucy Fleming and her husband, Simon Williams, read selections from the real-life World War II correspondence between Fleming's parents: actress Celia Johnson, a favorite of Noël Coward's, and writer-adventurer Peter Fleming, who was stationed in India at the time. The U.S. premiere is presented under the aegis of the Brits Off Broadway festival at 59E59.
In its 10th year of free theater in Carroll Park, Smith Street Stage presents Shakespeare's family-feud tragedy, in which rebellious teens have sex and score drugs from a local priest. Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy directs this modern-dress account.
Theater review by Helen Shaw When you walk into Say Something Bunny!, you enter another time. You might not notice that at first, because the brick office space where it takes place is so determinedly ordinary-looking. The small audience sits around a doughnut-shaped conference table, and as Alison S.M. Kobayashi begins her multimedia docuplay, some spectators are already paging through the scripts that have been placed in front of each chair. The text turns out to be the full transcript of a real, unlabeled 65-year-old recording that Kobayashi found hidden in an antique wire recorder: the audio relic of a teenage boy in Woodmere, Queens, enthusiastically taping two dozen family members and neighbors. Kobayashi has listened to the recording hundreds of times and has a seemingly boundless interest in the people whose voices it preserves, including amateur recordist David, mother Juliette and neighbor Bunny. She conducts us through a pair of after-dinner conversations, the first in 1952—she deduced the date from song lyrics mentioned on the wire—and the second in 1954. Aided by coauthor Christopher Allen, she pursues hints and half-heard jokes to determine who these people were and what befell them; she shows us the census records she used to find their old houses. The play unspools unhurriedly, leaving space for Kobayashi to make jokes, play short films and highlight points of historical interest. It takes a while for it to sink in that—of course—many of these vibrant people
The East Village Off-Off Broadway institution La MaMa celebrates the golden anniversary of the Stonewall riots with a month of queer performance. Writer-director Nia Witherspoon's immersive play Messiah (May 23–June 2), set against a hip-hop backdrop, examines the legacy of black nationalism through the prism of a teenage trans protagonist. The performance series Squirts (May 31–June 2) highlights new voices in the NYC queer scene. Global Gay (June 6–9), directed by France's Salvino Raco, explores the experiences of LGBTQ people around the world; 13 Fruitcakes (June 13–16), created by South Korea's Byungkoo Ahn and Gihieh Lee, looks at a baker's dozen of queer historical figures, as portrayed by a Korean cast that includes drag star "More" Jimin. Bearded Ladies Cabaret's Contradict This! A Birthday Funeral for Heroes (June 20–30) drags gay iconography into the spotlight. And on June 8, the peerless Taylor Mac presides over a special edition of La MaMa's Coffeehouse Chronicles series.
Kevin Hourigan directs a revival of Tennessee Williams's steamy masterwork in an immersive staging that stars genderqueer actor Russell Peck as the broken Southern belle Blanche DuBois.
Clubbed Thumb mounts its 24th annual new-works festival, one of the best ways to see which local playwrights have their fingers on the pulse. The first show is Sarah Einspanier's portrait of harried public defenders, Lunch Bunch (May 17–28), directed by Tara Ahmadinejad. Next up is Zhu Yi's You Never Touched the Dirt (June 3–13), a depiction of economic transformation and its costs, directed by downtown mainstay Ken Rus Schmoll. The final show is Daniel Glenn's look at life on the Plymouth Plantation, King Philip's Head Is Still on That Pike Just Down the Road (June 19–29), directed by Caitlin Ryan O'Connell.
Prepare for the arrival of this summer's Broadway megamusical Moulin Rouge with this smaller-scale look at the decadent art scene of the Belle Époque. This immersive play, written and directed by Mara Lieberman for Bated Breath Theatre Company, focuses on Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the short-lived artist whose depictions of the Parisian demimonde have helped shape our collective vision of the period.
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