Avenue Q went there after its Broadway run ran down. Now Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, and even The Play That Goes Wrong, have come to Worldwide Plaza’s New World Stages for a chance at a little longevity. The place offers off-Broadway alchemy to shows that still have a little more life in them, but aren’t filling the big house seats anymore.
They also offer the audience a new prospective:Avenue Q, for instance, was more enjoyable in the smaller house when we saw it. It had won pretty big at the 2004 Tony®ceremonies, of course, but we found the intimate setting at New World more appropriate to its tone and style. Worldwide has lots of stages where a fun show can frolic a bit longer.
Off off-Broadway has traditionally been the place where new and innovative get their start. The seeds of a more forward thinking theater have taken root on the stages of LaMaMa, a famously “experimental theater club,” or its ilk. Little but prominent theater companies have always flourished in NYC. Some of them have made advances in theater history, others have been playgrounds for more or less minor productions.
Of late, Broadway has taken on the tone of some of these “variety houses” with shows such as The Prom and Be More Chill hitting the great white way. The latter won its composer Joe Iconis a 2019 Tony ®for Best Original Score. For his fans the emergence of his next show, Broadway Bounty Hunter at the off-Bway Greenwich House Theater may have been great news; the show will close after a mere 48 performances on August 18th.
The off and off-off houses are more nimble than the main stem theaters. Production costs allow them to transform the audience experience, and try new things. A short run is less of a failure in this environment.
Shows like Be More Chill or The Prom might have had greater success at the old Promenade on 76th and Broadway, or The Little Shubert (now Stage 42). Neither of them thrived as full-on Broadway house productions; the former closed on August 11th after just about 200 performances all told; The Prom also closed on the 11th after332 performances including previews. Perhaps they too will find theimselves at New World Stages, a place where variety is really the spice of life, for a little extended life of their own.
Money Lab, a series of theatrical and audience participatory programs is coming to HERE through April 11, with your tax-break. The ubiquitous “What’s in your wallet?” has nothing on these theatrical performances that range from Letters to Engles, or Money Atheist, and Love und Greed among many others. The companies represented, which include Trav SD, Lone Wolf Tribe, Ten Directions, Evolve Company, mix theater, story-telling, dance, video, cabaret, opera, puppetry, clowning, and games. Money Lab takes its audiences to the interstices of economics and art.
Audience members will purchase tokens to use in games based such as auctions, The Dictator Game, and The Ultimatum Game, developed with the help of Game Play curator Gyda Arber and economist Rosemarie Nagel; and a number of rotating acts (four each performance) on various fiscal topics. Money Lab’s“economic vaudeville” is a multi-disciplinary experiment to see if economic subjects can be represented in performance.
Harlem Stage has a post-Valentine’s treat for us. Not the hearts and flowers kind of gift but a bouquet that honors the important American heritage of James Baldwin and Dinah Washington.
On February 19th and 20th at 7:30pm at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse, they present Stranger on Earth written and performed by Obie winning playwright Carl Hancock Rux. The production, commissioned by the company, is in celebration of Year of James Baldwin Centenary.
Stranger on Earth imagines a chance encounter at a Harlem jazz lounge between Dinah Washington and James Baldwin. The singer and the writer/philosopher/social commentator were the eras two most iconic African Americans. In this performance piece, Rux uses Baldwin’s landmark essays to create a work that addresses race, identity, and the future of a world which both Baldwin and Washington struggled to comprehend and inhabit. ASccompanying Rux is vocalist Marcelle Davies Lashley who interprets Washington’s songs. Rux draws from Baldwin’s “Notes of A Native Son,”“Nobody Knows My Name,” and “The Fire Next Time” for his original text, and from Washington’s final album (1964) for the title.
Ted Cruz, composer and producer, is on piano, with Jason DiMatteo on bass. DiMatteo, who works internationally with hundreds of musicians, is a frequent collaborator on Rux performances. Lashley has also worked with Rux on the Rux Revue, and was the mistress of ceremonies at the Jazz Foundation of America’s Gala at the Apollo in 2012.
Stranger on Earth plays out under a video montage by conceptual artist Onome Ekeh. The video sets the historic background for the piece in the violent and socially disruptive year of 1963. Yen Moon directs. Another of Rux’s collaborators, Hamilton “Fitz” Kirby provides the sound design for Stranger on Earth.
Harlem Stage kicked off the Year of James Baldwin on April 26, 2014 with a workshop of Stranger on Earth. The Baldwin initiative is envisioned as a 14-month, city-wide celebration of one of America’s most important and trenchant thinkers. The Year will culminate in the world premiere presentation at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse on June 3rd through 7th with Stew’s Notes of a Native Son. In this new work, Stew, the Tony-winning composer, singer and storyteller, is inspired by Baldwin’s visionary way of airing uncomfortable truths and finding in them both beauty and poetry.
Not so soon, in fact 2014-15 season at the Public:
“Hamilton,” written by the Tony and Grammy Award-winning composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, will have its world premiere next January as part of The Public’s 2014-15 season at Astor Place. Directed by his In The Heights collaborator Thomas Kail, this new musical features Miranda playing Alexander Hamilton, one of our country’s Founding Fathers and the first Secretary of the Treasury.
“Lin-Manuel Miranda is a marvel, but nothing could have prepared us for the astonishing achievement of Hamilton,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “Alexander Hamilton was born in the West Indies, the only Founding Father who was an immigrant, and Lin’s genius is to tell the story of the birth of the United States as an immigrant’s story. The energy, the passion, joy, tragedy, and raw intelligence of this show are stunning.”
Do we exist only as constructs in each other’s minds? Explore this concept and Sartre’s famous bon mots, “Hell is other people,” at the Pearl Theatre’s production of “No Exit.” For tickets and informaiton, please go to http://www.pearltheatre.org/1314/noexit/
Jolly Abraham as Inez and Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris as Estelle in a scene from “No Exit.”
Photo by Al Foote III
March 11-April 12
Paula Vogel’s “And Baby Makes Seven” is an uproarious and timely comedy that has not been seen professionally in New York in 20 years. Marc Stuart Weitz directs an ensemble including Ken Barnett, Susan Bott and Constance Zaytoun. Vogel’s “And Baby Makes Seven” tells the story of Anna and Ruth, a lesbian couple, who enlist their gay friend Peter to help them create a family. But are any of them ready for parenthood?
For tickets and to find out more, visit newohiotheatre.org
March 14-April 5
The Chocolate Factory Theater is presenting the world premiere Target Margin Theater’s “Uriel Acosta: I Want That Man!” from March 14-April 5. This new adaptation of one of the central plays of Yiddish history is taken from a variety of literary and historical sources and created and directed by TMT’s Artistic Director, David Herskovits. Original songs are by Rebecca Hart, with toy theater created by Kathleen Kennedy Tobin for this production.
Tickets and information are available at chocolatefactorytheater.org
Singer-songwriter Alexa Ray Joel, Christine Brinkley’s and Billy Joel’s talented daughter, makes her premiere at Cafe Carlyle.
Visit www.thecarlyle.com to find out more.
Patricia Kenny Dance Collection presents “Spring Collection” which includes their world premiere of “Unrest” choreographed by Patricia Kenny Reilly. Excerpts of “Unrest” were released on film in an open rehearsal series web forum, and this evening PKDC will share the culmination of the work-in-progress. The evening of dance is at the Queens Theatre for one night only.
For tickets, visit https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe.c/9883433. To learn more about PKDC, go to www.patriciakennydancecollection.com.
Ripe Time, the Brooklyn-based company led by Rachel Dickstein, will premiere “The World is Round,”
which adapts the Gertrude Stein book, at BAM Fisher. Conceived, written and directed by Dickstein, the work is a fable (for grownups and mature children) full of original live music by Heather Christian and aerial movement choreographed by Nicki Miller. “The World is Round” is Ripe Time’s first new show since 2011 when it launched its celebrated Mrs. Dalloway adaptation Septimus and Clarissa.
Go to www.bam.org/theworldisround for tickets and informaiton.
April 17-May 11
“The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O’Neill, Volume 2” in sequel to the award-winning “… Volume 1” is adapted and directed by Christopher Loar, ensemble member of the New York Neo-Futurists.
Now he’s a legendary playwright and a Broadway mainstay, but Eugene O’Neill was once considered an experimental, downtown playwright. His plays defied the melodramatic conventions of the day and much of his work premiered with the Provincetown Players on MacDougall Street. The New York Neo-Futurists return O’Neill to his experimental roots, and “…Volume 2” spans the years 1913 – 1915, and includes his plays Recklessness, Warnings,Fog, Abortion, and The Sniper.
Tickets and informatiokn at www.nynf.org
April 23- May 18
Part of the Brits off Broadway at 59E59, Harry Melling’s debut play, “Peddling” makes its US premiere.
A peddler wakes up in a field, with no memory of how he got there or what happened the night before. In his attempt to find out what happened, everything comes into question.
Learn more at www.59e59.org
“Lonely, I’m Not,” at 2econd Stage Theatre through June 3rd, truly deserves a more imaginative moniker. Playwright Paul Weitz does his fine romantic comedy a great disservice by not finding a worthier title to represent it. In fact “Lonely, I’m Not,” is arguably the best of the four Weitz plays 2econd Stage has produced.
On the other hand, the title of the performance piece at 59E59 Theaters, also playing through June 3rd, “Here I Go,”, conjures up a favorite Dolly Parton tune. “Here I Go” lives up to the promise, if not the spirit, that the tune inspires.
The hooks in Dolly Parton’s songs are so catchy and bouncy that it’s hard to imagine them as a soundtrack for heartbreak, but in “Here I Go,” Lynette, widowed at 60 (Natalie Leonard), not only has lost her husband but also had lost touch with her family.
“Here I Go” is a very engaging silent show, with a musical soundtrack, some of it live (Lynette at 16, Mariah Iliardi-Lowy, sings as does Michael Howell, billed as The Man) and a voice over narration (voiced by Julie Nelson.) Written by David Todd, “Here I Go” is a stylized performance conceived by Luke Leonard, who also directs, and set to Western sounds (designed by Michael Howell.)
In “Here I Go,” Lynette revisits the highlights and low points of her life as a cowgirl, bringing to life her younger selves (along with her at 16 years old; at 8, Gates Loren Leonard; at 26, Jessica Pohlman).
“All I ever wanted was a few moments to myself, just to think….” Lynette says. “And then I’d put on my music and it would sound so sweet, because I had you and I had them…. But when you take it all away… the music just doesn’t do it anymore.”
In “Lonely, I’m Not,” Porter (Topher Grace), still reeling from his divorce three years ago, has also fallen on hard times. Once he was a high-powered, hard-driving success. His father, Rick (Mark Blum), a con artist, still thinks of him as a soft touch, although he is running low on funds.
Heather (Olivia Thirlby), driven by ambition and overcoming the handicap of her blindness, is enjoying a thriving career when a mutual friend in finance who goes by the name of Little Dog (Christopher Jackson) fixes her up with Porter. Their attraction is based in part on overcoming outsiderness, and the plot carries the rom-com formula through. Nonetheless, “Lonely, I’m Not” is a charming play.
Maureen Sebastian adroitly plays Porter’s ex-wife, Carlotta and Heather’s over-protective roommate, and her assistant. The wonderfully versatile Lisa Emery portrays Heather’s concerned mother, Porter’s Polish cleaning lady, Yana, and a school administrator who interviews Porter for a teaching job.
Olivia Thirlby gives a nuanced performance. Topher Grace, the Jack Lemmon of his generation, deserves a much bigger career than he has so far enjoyed. He did well in “That 70s Show,” of course, and has had some movie outings, but he should be a big star, a household name, even.