Get us in your inbox

Search
SKINNAMARINK
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
Advertising

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 2 of 4
  • Fort Greene

Jim Niesen stages Lewis Carroll’s adventure as an environmental production by converting the considerable Irondale Center space (a refurbished 19th-century church building) into a warren of rabbit holes, attics and tea parties. First mounted in 2010, this ambitious show, adapted collaboratively by Niesen and the Irondale Ensemble and designed by Ken Rothchild, veers among multiple styles and tones to convey the topsy-turvy world of Alice's journey. Five actors perform multiple roles for a peripatetic audience of 30.

  • Theater
  • Outdoor theaters
  • price 2 of 4
  • Central Park

Two friends who haven't seen each other for a year and a half—because of, you know, recent events of the world—reunite to catch up over a game of catch in this outdoor two-hander, which is presented outdoors in Central Park at sundown. Playwright Richard Hollman costars with Chris Roberti in this two-hander, directed by Katie Young; audience members get an email the day before the performance with instructions on where to go, where to sit and how to listen in on the action. 

Advertising
  • 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.

  • Theater
  • Drama
  • price 2 of 4
  • East Village

Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner's new film version of West Side Story is due to come out in December, but Emmy-winning writer-performer-director William Electric Black (sometimes known as Ian Ellis James) beats them to the rumble in his latest show at Theater for the New City. In this interactive solo show, Electric takes a wide-ranging look at the gangs-and-balconies musical and its place in American culture. 

Advertising
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Drama
  • price 1 of 4
  • Flatiron

The Grown-Ups: Theater review by Adam Feldman It is an unfortunate fact of small-scale theater that by the time you find out that something really cool is going on, it is often nearly impossible to get a ticket. And so it is that the hardest show to get into right now is not Hamilton, The Lion King or anything else you’ve probably heard of, but The Grown-Ups, a new immersive play by the youthful company Nightdrive. The Grown-Ups is, in fact, really cool; better than that, it is smart, funny, topical and very well-performed. It is also completely sold out through its current scheduled run. In this case, the issue has more to do with supply than demand. Skylar Fox and Simon Henriques’s play is set at a sleepaway camp, and it unfolds around a campfire, where the senior counselors—who are barely older than the kids under their charge—gather to unwind once their cabins have been put to bed. Nightdrive’s site-specific production, directed by Fox, takes place outdoors around an actual fire in a backyard in North Brooklyn, and the five actors perform the entire 100-minute play for only six to eight audience members at a time, with the spectators interspersed among the cast.  The members of the company quarantined together during the shutdown, and they share a deep rapport that fits well with the characters, of whom four have been attending Camp Indigo Woods continually since they were young. (The camp is more than a century old, but its name is new; the former one was Native American

  • Theater
  • Puppet shows
  • price 2 of 4
  • East Village

Innovation goes hand in glove with theater at this biannual festival of new puppetry for grown-ups. This year's collection includes the Butoh-inspired Body Concert (Oct 7–10), a wordly fugure of giant skinless body parts that is the first NYC performance by Kevin Augustine's Lone Wolf Tribe since its 2016 revival of the epic The God Projekt. Also on the lineup are Shoshana Bass's When I Put On Your Glove (Oct 7–10), a meditation on father, daughters and memory; Torry Bend and Howard L. Craft's Dreaming (Oct 14–17), which looks at the legacy of early 20th-century comic strip artist Winsor McCay; and Jump Start (Oct 21–24), which is devoted to five works-in-progress.

Advertising
  • 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.

  • 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.

Advertising
  • Theater
  • Children's
  • price 2 of 4
  • East Village

The clever Peter Michael Marino, who has been a leading figure in virtual programming for kids since the pandemic began, goes live with his latest imaginative adventure: a spoof of Planet of the Apes that uses toy-theater techniques to tell the story of astronauts who land on a world controlled by hyperintelligent vine fruit. It sounds like—dare we say?—a whole bunch of fun. The hour-long multimedia production, directed by Michole Biancosino, features original music by Michael Harren; for those who can't attend in person, it will also be streamed online. 

  • Theater
  • Experimental
  • price 0 of 4
  • East Village

The immersive theater company Witness mounts a free, durational pop-up installation-performance inspired by Aechylus's Oresteia cycle. For eight straight hours a day, Arjun Pande plays Orestes, performing ancient Greek rituals in hope of communicating with the gods about his decision to murder his mother to avenge her murder of his father to avenge his murder of their daughter. Beware of Greeks bearing grudges! Reservations are not accepted, and audiences may come at any time and explore the space—an East Village storefront reimagined as a safe house near Argos, packed with germane artifacts and family mementos—for as long as they want (though if there is a line, they will have to wait in it again to reenter the event).

More Broadway stories

Advertising
Advertising
Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising