Monday, January 30, 2012

Theater: New Shows (January 30-February 6)

More than a dozen shows debut this week, over half of which make my to-see list. That includes my favorite play by Brecht; a rarely-seen Jacobean drama; three Euro classics from the dark, early half of the last century; a camp musical revival; new plays, musicals & anthologies by modern writers… and my Pick of the Week, The Ugly One, a German import, because I'm always fascinated to see what's big on Europe's stages.

where: Signature Center

first night: Tuesday, Jan. 31

Check out the inaugural show at a new Off-Broadway space: the Pershing Square Signature Center (nowhere near Pershing Square itself, confusingly). Signature mounts a seminal work of African theater, the 1961 biracial drama of South African Athol Fugard, starring Wooster Groupie Scott Shepherd.

where: MCC at the Lucille Lortel Theater

first night: Tuesday, Jan. 31

A cult classic of musical theater, Carrie became the epitome of Broadway flops after an eviscerating review from Frank Rich. Yes, you read that right: a musical, adapted from the Stephen King novel and subsequent movie about a misfit teen whose latent telekinesis comes out after one humiliation too many.

where: Marvell Rep at the TBG Complex

first night: Tuesday, Jan. 31

A young woman has septic poisoning after an illegal abortion; a Jewish surgeon gets pilloried first for her treatment and then for her death. This century-old Viennese work provoked protests and bans for obvious reasons. These Ibsenite dramas can be dusty, but feel so modern if they're done right.

where: Classic Stage Company

first night: Wednesday, Feb. 1

One of my favorite plays! Bertolt Brecht takes apart the legend of the scientist's confrontation with the Catholic Church, taking stock of the historical forces involved but also the human motives behind both heroism and capitulation. F. Murray Abraham, in the lead, will likely bring out Galileo's gusto.

where: Soho Rep

first night: Wednesday, Feb. 1

The best company Off-Broadway, year in/year out, introduces New York to one of Germany's hottest playwrights, Marius von Mayenburg. This provocateur satirizes image and identity in his pocket-drama, which has an engineer learn that his promising career has stalled because he's incredibly bad-looking.

where: Ars Nova

first night: Wednesday, Feb. 1

Every year, Ars Nova puts together an anthology of punchy shorts on a quirky pop-culture subject by next-big-thing playwrights, some of whom will surely be lost to TV by the calendar's end. This season, the youngsters' inspiration is the Urban Dictionary, that crowd-sourced reference tool/time-suck.

where: Playwrights Horizons

first night: Friday, Feb. 3

Leslye Headland surprised everyone (except literary managers, maybe) by debuting a gleefully dark comedy in Bachelorette a few summers ago. Let's hope her follow-up—a satire that covers an office of personal assistants to a capitalist magnate—has the same bold ability to revel in youthful misbehavior.

where: Abingdon Theater

first night: Friday, Feb. 3

This two-actor play hits upon a scene fraught with potential: in swampland Mississippi, an injured auctioneer is found on an old Indian trail by a runaway slave. The tricky goal of this type of historical drama is to be neither too melodramatic nor too discursive, and to avoid soothing resolutions.

where: 59E59

first night: Friday, Feb. 3

Aiming to be your Valentine's date, 59E59 programs this collection of love stories and love songs. It looks like Lovesick takes a romcom approach to romance, with pretty young people getting steamed up or steamy about sex. Hopefully, the creators will also delve into the more kinky and cynical aspects of amour.

where: Mint Theater Company

first night: Saturday, Feb. 4

That rare treasure: a true lost classic by a female playwright (and a favorite of Emma Goldman!). The broad strokes sound like an English family melodrama—a northern industrialist disagrees with his son about how to save the firm—but it's remarkably attuned to class, sex, mortal, and even regional conflicts.

where: Theater for a New Audience at the Duke on 42nd Street

first night: Saturday, Feb. 4

An aristo undermines his sister's romance; an ingenue cuckolds her angry old husband. This may be Sparta, but it looks a lot more like the decadent Jacobean theater. Post-Shakespeare playwright John Ford wrote Tis Pity She's a Whore; his rarely-produced Heart sounds a bit less bloody but just as cynical.

where: Atlantic Stage 2

first night: Sunday, Feb. 5

The heroine's name is Isabel Archer, the period is the Gilded Age, but if Tokio Confidential adapts Portrait of a Lady, it's hard to see the resemblance from a summary. In this modernist musical, American abroad Archer visits Japan, where she falls into the floating world of Tokyo's pleasure quarter.

where: Fourth Street Theater

first night: Monday, Feb. 6

Not the only work of horror to debut this week (see Carrie), but this play sounds authentically creepy and not campy. It's that old standby: a group of friends stranded in the woods at midnight, unable to agree on what they saw. Compellingly, it's billed as a “symmetrical story”—what could that mean?

where: Marvell Rep at the TBG Complex

first night: Monday, Feb. 6

Two Brecht revivals in one week!? Mac the Knife's opinion must seem pointed and current to Marvell Rep: “Which crime is worse, robbing a bank or founding one?” Threepenny epitomizes the master playwright for most people, with its Weimar aesthetics, socialist politics, and alienated theatrical style.

Last chance!

The Canterbury Tales Remixed

where: Soho Playhouse

Close Up Space

where: City Center Stage I

The Fall to Earth

where: 59E59

Gob's Squad's Kitchen (You've Never Had It So Good)

where: The Public Theater


where: Theater Row


where: Theater Row

Mission Drift

where: The Connelly Theater

Outside People

where: Vineyard Theater

Untitled Feminist Show

where: Baryshnikov Arts Center

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