Who is this Anita Gates you speak of?

A.G.’s journalistic triumphs over 25 years at The New York Times include drinking with Bea Arthur (at a Trump hotel), Wendy Wasserstein (at an Italian restaurant) and Peter O’Toole (in his trailer on a mini-series set near Dublin). It is sheer coincidence that these people are now dead.

At The New York Times, she has been Arts & Leisure television editor and co-film editor, a theater reviewer on WQXR Radio, a film columnist for the Times TV Book and an editor in the Culture, Book Review, Travel, National, Foreign and Metro sections. Her first theater review for The Times appeared in 1997, assessing “Mrs. Cage,” a one-act about a housewife suspected of shooting her favorite supermarket box boy. The review was mixed.

Outside The Times, A.G. has been the author of four nonfiction books; a longtime writer for travel magazines, women's magazines and travel guidebooks; a lecturer at universities and for women’s groups; and a moderator for theater, book, film and television panels at the 92nd Street Y and the Paley Center for Media.

If she were a character on “Mad Men,” she’d be Peggy.

What to See Off Broadway (Update Coming! For now: Use for long-running shows only.)

(Extra click. Sorry. Technical flaw!)

 

Off Broadway, productions come and go so quickly that it’s hard to keep track. But here’s a selection: a few long-running classics mixed with some ships in the night.

AFTERGLOW

Original drama / Extended through July 1

“Live Naked Boys and a Modern Marriage” was the headline of Elisabeth Vincentelli’s New York Times review. She found the play “soap-operatic” but conceded that it had “funny moments.” S. Asher Gelman wrote and directed this story about polyamorous gay men whose regularly scheduled three-way goes awry when two of the guys fall in love with each other. Just each other. This show just keeps getting extended. 

The Loft at the Davenport Theater, 354 West 45th Street; afterglowtheplay.com, 1 hour 30 minutes. Opened on June 23, 2017.

 

AVENUE Q

Musical with puppets (but it’s not for little kids)

avenue Q set.jpg

Low-Rent

The New World Stages set of "Avenue Q." Kate Monster and her friends live here. So does Gary Coleman.

It’s been playing forever, and it never gets old. When it was on Broadway (for six years, starting in 2003), it won three Tonys, including best musical, even though it was and is about R-rated puppets (and a few humans) trying to get through their 20s with big dreams and tiny paychecks. It’s hard to resist a show with musical numbers like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “I Wish I Could Go Back to College” (for the meal plan!) and a character named Lucy the Slut. FYI: The "Only for Now" number has indeed been updated to refer to the current White House occupant.

New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, avenueq.com. 2 hours 15 minutes. 

 

BLUE MAN GROUP  

Performance art

What can we say? Decades ago, this piece of musical-comedic miscellany with bald guys painted electric blue from head to toe was avant-garde. Now it’s kind of not. But the show is still running in the same little East Village theater and has Drama Desk, Obie and Lucille Lortel Awards from the early ’90s to prove its critical success. Recommended for ages 6 and up.

Astor Place Theater 434 Lafayette Street; blueman.com.  1 hour 30 minutes (no intermission). Opened in 1991.

 

 

 

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GAZILLION BUBBLE SHOW

Interactive performance art for children

A whole bunch of different ways to make bubbles -- with wands, tubes, smoke, lasers and colored lights. When the show opened a decade ago, the New York Times theater critic Lawrence Van Gelder was unimpressed. "Uninteresting," he declared simply, acknowledging only that the performer seemed to be having fun. "The enchantment is not contagious." 

New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street; gazillionbubbleshow.com. 1 hour. (no intermission). Opened in 2007.

 

 

THE IMBIBLE

A SPIRITED HISTORY OF DRINKING

Musical based on real alcohol

Don’t look for the right theater once you’re inside the New World Stages complex; “The Imbible” is performed in the bar. Time Out New York gave it four stars. Anthony Caporale and his bouncy cast take the audience through millennia of history of fermentation, distillation and intoxication. The price of your ticket includes three drinks. And now there’s a spinoff: “Day Drinking: The Brunch Musical Comedy” is performed at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays – just like Broadway matinees.

New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street; imbible.nyc. 1 hour 45 minutes. Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only.

 

 

IN & OF ITSELF

Magic-variety show / Closes on Aug. 19

The Times liked it a lot. Derek DelGaudio is the man onstage doing card tricks for the audience and the video screen, sharing memories, then guessing who people in the audience are, according to which “I am” cards they chose before the show. (Examples: “I am a pirate.” “I am a lover.” “I am a Mensa member.”) Frank Oz directed, but there are no Muppets in the show, and he’d really like you to stop thinking of him that way.

Daryl Roth Theater, 101 East 15th Street (20 Union Square East); darylroththeatre.com. 1 hour 15 minutes (no intermission).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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JERSEY BOYS

Jukebox musical based on real people and events

You can’t call this pop-songbook anything but a megahit. It ran a little more than 11 years (November 2005 to January 2017) on Broadway and won four Tonys, including best musical. Now it’s moved Off Broadway (in a “slightly slimmed down fashion,” according to Michael Paulson’s article in The New York Times). As almost everybody knows, it’s the grit-to-glitz story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, some talented teenagers who start out in New Jersey and end up at the top of the pop charts with ‘60s hits like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Walk Like a Man.” 

New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street; telecharge.com. 2 hours 30 minutes.  Opened on Nov. 22, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

SAY SOMETHING BUNNY!

Performance art / New dates added through September

I cannot begin to understand what "Say Something Bunny!" is. (The title, forgive me, should be punctuated "Say Something, Bunny" unless "something bunny" is now a thing. Maybe it's a play on "Say something funny"?) But Alexis Soloski, who recently reviewed it for The Times, adored it. (Re-reviewed, that is. Elisabeth Vincentelli had written a review of the production last summer, when it was scheduled to have a very short run.) "Say Something Bunny!" has something to do with the woman who wrote it finding and playing old tape recordings of a total stranger's midcentury childhood-family-and-neighbors conversations, investigating to find out who the voices belonged to and people in the audience playing those roles (but never actually speaking or even moving, just reading the transcript silently, if they so choose). It's in a tiny (24 people) Chelsea theater, and Soloski recommends it highly -- "as catching as the chickenpox." Vogue and Time Out New York loved it too.

UNDO Project Space, 511 West 20th Street; saysomethingbunny.com. 2 hours 20 minutes. Limited run. Or is it???

 

Last updated May 13, 2018

 

 

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RECENT CLOSINGS/PAST LISTINGS

LUCKY CHICK

Solo show / Closed on May 12

They were giving away free drinks at “Lucky Chick,” so I may have imagined some of this. But at one point, I’m pretty sure Felicity Seidel had a python wrapped around her neck. (I’m sure it was a prop.) Seidel’s wild and woolly solo show starts with an animated video about pretty much raising herself in New York City, where she dropped out of school because she liked “tagging along at a robbery better than conjugating verbs at a desk.” Well, don’t we all? She had a taste for danger and – apologies to “Working Girl” – apparently a bod for sin. When a concert official said to her, “The band wants to meet you,” she claims to have said no at first. But the band was the Grateful Dead, and she ended up in a long relationship with Bob Weir. When she wasn’t cheating on him with her other boyfriend, a drug dealer. Somehow, near the end, she’s driving a tractor and throwing vegetables. She was 15 when it all began. The solo performance may not be the ideal showcase for Seidel’s talents (sometimes her effort shows when it shouldn’t), but it’s a hell of a story.

 Paradise Factory Theater, 64 East Fourth Street; luckychick.nyc. 1 hour (no intermission). Began performances on April 19. Limited run.

HARRY CLARKE

Solo show / Closed on May 13

Billy Crudup plays a modest Midwestern guy who grows up feeling that he’s an Englishman trapped inside an American’s body. As an adult in New York, he decides to pass himself off as a dapper Brit – and finds that the masquerade turns him into a new, jaunty, hyperconfident man, wildly attractive to women and men. But of course after he becomes a rich family’s favorite, he does everything he can to get into big trouble. I, personally, never would have guessed the strangely satisfying ending, and I was mesmerized to the point that I forgot I was watching a movie star. This is a return engagement – or maybe a delayed transfer -- not a revival. When it was at the Vineyard last fall, The Times made it a Critic’s Pick, calling it a masterly production with a “delicious conceit” that proves “we’re all actors, working with whatever rickety materials we’ve got.”

Minetta Lane Theater, 18 Minetta Lane; 800-982-2787, harryclarkeplay.com.  1 hour 30 minutes (no intermission). Opened on March 18. Limited run.

 

THEN SHE FELL

Site-specific, immersive multimedia / Closed on April 29

Time Out New York called this long-running show "stunningly personal." The New Yorker went with "wildly imaginative." The Times made it a Critic's Choice. Audience members (a maximum of 15 people per performance) wander through a three-story space meant to be a combination of Alice's Wonderland and a psychiatric ward. Characters including Alice, the Hatter and the Red Queen may chat with them, offer them drinks or just act out. Nobody's experience is exactly the same. And it's been running for five years.

Kingsland Ward, 195 Maujer Street, Brooklyn; thenshefell.com. 2 hours (no intermission). Opened Oct. 6, 2012. 

AMY AND THE ORPHANS

Comic drama / Closed on April 22

I did not (at first) read Ben Brantley’s Times review of “Amy and the Orphans” to the end, so I had the pleasure of discovering for myself the aching heart of this play: the connection between the overall story and the sympathetic young couple that we keep seeing at some couples retreat, passionately in love and battling to make a gut-wrenching decision. (Brantley does give a spoiler alert. Two, in fact.) I also had the pleasure of seeing an intensely moving dramedy about a woman with Down syndrome, played by a woman with Down syndrome, and never finding the proceedings gratuitous or earnest. In fact, I laughed a lot.  Amy (Jamie Brewer) lives in an institution in Queens, where she has good caregivers, a job at a movie theater and a boyfriend named Nick Nolte (no connection). She is about to be visited by her older siblings (played by Debra Monk and Mark Blum), who have bad news about their father. About their mother too, but, well, they were putting off that announcement. Yes, as Brantley points out, the sister and brother are laden with “bright, jumbo-size neuroses and eccentricities” that seem all too familiar from dysfunctional-family scripts of yore, but rock-solid performances make up for a lot of that.  Adam Feldman, writing in Time Out New York, called the show “slim” in places but praised Brewer’s main-attraction performance. At the end, Brewer kills (in comedy terms) with Amy’s speech made up of movie quotes you’ve heard a hundred times before but never enjoyed nearly as much. A smartly structured script by Lindsey Ferrentino.

Laura Pels Theater, Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theater, 111 West 46th Street; 212-719-1300, roundabouttheatre.org. 1 hour 30 minutes (no intermission). Opened on March 1, 2018. Limited run.

ADMISSIONS

Sociopolitical satiric drama / Closed on April 29

admissions threeshot.jpg

He Bombed With New Haven

From left, Jessica Hecht, Andrew Garman and Ben Edelman in "Admissions." It's easy to make a place at the table for everyone, the son points out to his diversity-conscious academic parents, when it's not a table you're sitting at.

Sherri and Bill are liberal academics whose job is to fight for diversity, but when their son, Charlie, doesn’t get into Yale and his mixed-race friend does, their values are tested. The Times made the play a Critic’s Pick and declared it “an extraordinarily useful and excruciating satire – of the left, by the left, for the left – for today.” Jessica Hecht stars, but it’s Ben Edelman as Charlie who gets the big, virtually show-stopping speech (The Hollywood Reporter called it “an aria of resentment”). And two minutes later, you’re embarrassed that you cheered. Press Nights wishes to note that it has never before heard the words “community college” spoken with such palpable disdain and that good Upper West Side liberals ought to see this production  twice.

Mitzi Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center; 212-239-6200, lct.org. 1 hour 45 minutes. Opened on March 12, 2018. Limited run.

 

GOOD FOR OTTO

Drama  / Closed on April 15

A new play by David Rabe ("Lily's dad?" my press-night guest RR asked). A dynamite cast headed by Ed Harris, with F. Murray Abraham, Mark-Linn Baker, Amy Madigan, Rhea Perlman and people you know but don't even realize you know  (e.g., Kenny Mellman of Kiki and Herb). A comic drama about a mental health facility, a doctor, a therapist, their patients and the evil company (Colossal Care) that controls the money. Among the patients: A woman grieving her son's suicide, a man who won't get out of bed, a little girl who's too damaged to go on, a child-man who can't figure out how to say hello to strangers but has a healthy relationship with his hamster. Jesse Green of The Times found it "tedious."  The Hollywood Reporter called it "didactic and dated" but acknowledged the absolutely first-rate cast. Press Nights nominates Abraham for best portrayal of a mental patient, with Maulik Pancholy (talented, talented, talented) as runner-up.

Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street; signaturetheatre.org.  3 hours. Opened March 8, 2018.  Limited run.

 

EDUCATION

Political drama / Closed on April 8

What’s worse than burning a flag for a high school art project? Doing it in small-town Ohio. Not being sorry. Having an equally protest-prone girlfriend who writes poetry in which every third or fourth word is “fuck.” Oh, and then incinerating a certain religious figure in effigy. Back in 2004, Brian Dykstra was doing his first New York solo show  (“Brian Dykstra: Cornered and Alone,” which had some priceless things to say about God, stem-cell research and George W. Bush). Now he’s written a hard-hitting, conspicuously intelligent two-act about the role of art in politics, theology and polarization. “Education” is the stylistic opposite of Chekhov; here, everybody says exactly what they mean, and even if such honest conversations are unlikely, they’re captivating and enlightening. Of the five characters, not one is a bad person, although the young woman’s scripture-quoting mother comes close. If I were Dykstra’s dramaturg, I’d trim 15 minutes or so and lose the loud symbolism at the end. Just as long as he doesn’t delete lines like “We atheists, we have to be ethical….” (spoken by the young man’s uncle) “There’s no atoning for our sins.”

59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street; 212-279-4200, 59e59.org. Opened on March 14, 2018. 2 hours. Limited run.

 

JERRY SPRINGER: THE OPERA

Satirical British opera based on American TV / Closed on April 1

Finally, a real New York run for this irreverent, profane London musical, which won the Olivier Award 15 years ago! It's just what it sounds like:  a visit to the trash-talk-show hit "The Jerry Springer Show" with its angry, lower-middle-class infidels and fetishists as guests. But sung as an opera. Also making appearances: Jesus, Satan and tap-dancing Ku Klux Klansmen. Ben Brantley of The Times called the new production a "divinely wrought all-American reincarnation" that finds the compassion within the satire. And if there were any worries that it might be dated, because Springer reached his fame peak decades ago, Brantley says, au contraire, the show turns out to be "a work of stirring prophecy." Marilyn Stasio, writing in Variety, loved the "deliciously dirty lyrics" but thought the show fell apart in Act II.

Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street; thenewgroup.org. 2 hours. Began performances on Jan. 23, 2018.  Limited run.

PARTY FACE

Irish comedy-drama / Closed on April 8

A young woman has been going through a bad patch – well, she attempted suicide -- and her mom decides the best way for her to feel better and get back into the game is to throw a party. Hayley Mills (yes, that Hayley Mills, now 71) plays the party host’s mother-from-hell. The play, which has an all-female cast, has been a hit in Dublin. Alexis Soloski of The New York Times didn’t care for it, but the critics in general seem happy to see Hayley. “Boy, does she ace the sunny jibe!” Soloski wrote.

City Center Stage II, 131 West 55th Street; partyfaceplay.com.  1 hour 50 minutes. Began performances on Jan. 11. Limited run.

IN THE BODY OF THE WORLD

Solo show based on real life / Closed on March 25

Eve Ensler is really good at this. “The Vagina Monologues,” her taboo-shattering 1990s one-woman production, could have just been a right-word-at-the-right-time fluke. But Ensler’s new Manhattan Theater Club solo show -- about her battle with uterine cancer, her work with rape victims in Africa and her relationship with her self-involved mother – proves that she has the passion and the style to tell any story she wants. This one is funny, moving, hand-over-your-mouth horrifying and joyously profane. The projection design is a work of art.

City Center Stage I, 131 West 55th Street; nycitycenter.org, 1 hour 20 minutes (no intermission). Limited run.

HANGMEN

Drama / Closed on March 25

Apparently, Martin McDonagh has done it again. In The New York Times, Ben Brantley wrote that in his new play (straight from London), he works "his double-edged, sinister magic on a stage, making breathless, alarmed and deeply satisfied dupes of us all." In Variety, Marilyn Stasio called the opening-scene execution "seditiously funny." In the Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney declared the play  "delectably dark." The plot: Harry is feeling down because he's a renowned hangman, and England has just abolished hanging. He and his pals gather at the neighborhood pub that Harry owns (luckily, he has this lucrative sideline); then a stranger comes to town.. Good luck getting in, during this short run! (And for those of you who follow film more than theater, McDonagh is indeed the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.")

Atlantic Theater Company at Linda Gross Theater, 336 West 20th Street; atlantictheater.org. 2 hours 15 minutes. Opened on Feb. 5, 2018. Limited run.

EDWARD ALBEE'S 'AT HOME AT THE ZOO'

Double-bill drama revival / Closed on March 25

In "Homelife," an unhappy couple try to figure out how to be happy (pretty happy?) after the wife opens a conversation with, "We should talk." In "The Zoo Story," the husband goes out to the park by himself and is accosted by a strange, intense man who may symbolize all his fears. Albee's estate now insists on these two one-acts being shown together, and Jesse Green of The Times, who declared this "a terrific production," approves, calling "Homelife" (a prequel to the second play) "an indispensably excellent work in its own right." Laura Collins-Hughes, writing in The Village Voice, labeled the show an "electrifying revival." Robert Sean Leonard, Katie Finneran and Paul Sparks star. 

Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street; signaturetheatre.org, 2 hours. Opened on Feb. 21, 2018. Limited run.

TERMINUS

Drama / Closed on March 10

A crazy old lady and her grandson in a small Georgia town, and then a stranger arrives. The estimable Deirdre O'Connell stars in this Southern Gothic and gives, according to Elisabeth Vincentelli in The Times, a "heartbreaking, brilliant performance." 

New York Theater Workshop, 79 East Fourth Street; 1 hour 40 minutes, nytw.org.  Opened on Feb. 20, 2018. Limited run.

HARRIET’S RETURN

Solo show based on historical events / Closed on March 4

Harriet Tubman’s moment may be here at last. For starters, Karen Joan Meadows’s one-woman show turns Tubman (1822-1913), the Underground Railroad abolitionist, into a real person, one who appreciates a “fine man” when she sees one, disdains tea sandwiches (crusts are the best part) and demonstrates a rich sense of humor. With way-too-shadowy lighting and a slight overdose of shaky self-importance, this may not be “Hamilton”-level repositioning, but it makes its points. Who lives, who dies, who gets to be on the $20 bill.

Castillo Theater, 543 West 42nd Street; newfederaltheatre.com, 2 hours. Limited run.

MILES FOR MARY

Comedy (original) / Closed on Feb. 18

Time Out New York gives it five stars. The Times raves. This Playwrights Horizons production is set in a faculty lounge at an Ohio high school in 1988 and a series of meetings to plan a charity telethon. And it "slides from surface comedy into an unexpected realm of emotional substance, where laughter increasingly comes with a catch in its throat," Ben Brantley wrote. And we "catch glimpses of fraught, often lonely lives."

Peter Jay Sharp Theater, 416 West 42nd Street; playwrightshorizons.org. 1 hour 50 minutes. Opened on Jan. 22, 2018. Limited run.

HINDLE WAKES

Period comedy (revival) / Closed on Feb. 17

An absolutely lovely and emotionally gripping revival, and that's not easy  to pull off with a  comic morality tale that first shocked British audiences in 1912. But the story has sex, money, social-class tensions and a lot of insight into the range of human character. Seems that a pretty, free-thinking young mill worker decided to spend her bank-holiday weekend with the mill owner's handsome son, and now the young gentleman is expected to "do the right thing." Opinion on that move is divided, in unexpected corners. The Sunday Times of London wrote, of a 1998 revival there, that the play "still packs a powerful punch."  This new Mint Theater production also offers intensely believable performances and stunning set design. "Hindle Wakes" was last seen on a New York stage in 1922.

Clurman Theater, 410 West 42nd Street; minttheater.org. 2 hours 15 minutes. Opened on Jan. 18, 2018.

THE CHEKHOV DREAMS

Dark romantic comedy, original / Closed on Feb. 17

 

The first thing you have to wonder in John McKinney’s “The Chekhov Dreams” is why our hero, Jeremy, even wants his dead girlfriend back – or to join her in the afterlife. She seems so obnoxious whenever she appears in his dreams, which try to be idyllic flashbacks but make dead Kate just seem show-offy and self-involved. Jeremy’s new acting-class scene partner, Chrissy, is much better: full of life (well, naturally) but also a fully realized character played with infectious energy and extreme motivation. Too bad the scene she wants them to do is by Chekhov, Jeremy’s least favorite dramatist. But is that a fate worse than death, so to speak? The charming ghost of Anton Chekhov (who, for some reason, has just discovered vulgar American slang) drops by now and then to offer guidance.

Beckett Theater at Theater Row, 410 West 42nd Street; chekhovdreams.com. 2 hours. Opened on Feb. 3, 2018. Limited run.

JERICHO

Adaptation of the drama “Liliom” / Closed on Feb. 10

It’s all here. Everything that gave its source, Ferenc Molnar’s dark 1909 Hungarian romantic drama, “Liliom,” its tormented soul. Everything that gave Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1940s musical “Carousel” its battered but somehow still pure heart. Michael Weller, the playwright who gave us “Moonchildren” and “Spoils of War,” has moved the story to Coney Island in 1932, and Depression desperation hangs heavy in the ocean air.  A good-hearted working-class girl and a bad-boy carnival barker (Liliom, in the Hungarian original, who becomes Billy Bigelow in “Carousel” and Jericho here) fall in love, but that means something different to each of them. Violence – and, frankly, Jericho’s own stupidity – tear them apart, but remember, this is the story that inspired both “If I Loved You” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” (Yes, there's a great big  antifeminist subplot about domestic abuse, but Julie's unfortunate reaction may help explain a lot about its victims.) It’s an honor to see Weller’s new work in this intimate East Village theater. And it’s timely research: A new revival of “Carousel” opens on Broadway in April.

The Wild Project, 195 East Third Street; theattictheaterco.com. 2 hours. Opened on Jan. 20. Limited run.

LABUTE NEW THEATER FESTIVAL 2018  

 Three one-act dramas / Closed on Feb. 4

In Neil LaBute’s world, human beings are horrible by nature, overflowing with venom and always plotting against someone. His “Hate Crime,” which begins this intriguing, often gripping evening of one-acts from the St. Louis Actors’ Studio, is about two male lovers planning the murder of the younger man’s husband-to-be (complete with film-noir-ready life insurance policies). James Haigney’s “Winter Break” chronicles the angst of a mother afraid that her daughter, a recent convert to Islam and about to board a plane, is a secret terrorist. And Carter W. Lewis’s “Percentage America” has to be the best play ever written about fact-checking “fake news.”

59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street; 59e59.org. 1 hour 40 minutes. Opened on Jan. 11, 2018. Limited run.

 

 

 

 

 

SPAMILTON

Musical parody / Closed in January 2018

If you saw Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenon “Hamilton” at the Public Theater or on Broadway, you’re the perfect audience for this fabulous send-up, from Gerard Alessandrini, the man who created “Forbidden Broadway.” The new numbers include “What Did You Miss?” and “I Want to Be in the Film When It Happens.” In The New York Times, Ben Brantley called it “smart, silly and often convulsively funny.”  I can vouch for that.

Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, 304 West 47th Street; spamilton.com.  1 hour 10 minutes (no intermission).

BALLYTURK

Dark farce / Closed on Jan. 28

Adam Feldman of Time Out New York called it “Beckett on uppers.” One online headline suggested: Godot Finally Shows Up. Ben Brantley’s Times review mentioned Beckett once – but in the same sentence with Harold Pinter. Brantley wasn't completely sold on the production but appreciated it for its well-woven web of images, kinetic charge and "moments of “pure, moronic bliss.” The setting is three people in a mysterious room. The theme is nothing less than the meaning of life and death. 

St. Ann’s Warehouse, 45 Water Street, Brooklyn; stannswarehouse.org. 1 hour 30 minutes. Opened on Jan. 14, 2018. Limited run.

 

20TH CENTURY BLUES

Original comic drama / Closed on Jan. 28

Susan Miller's  new play is about four longtime women friends who have been getting together for 40 years and being photographed by the one of them who is a professional photographer (Polly Draper). Now the photographer wants to use those pictures in her big, fancy MoMA retrospective, and not everyone agrees. They're also having various problems with career loss, widowhood-phobia, parents with dementia and just generally keeping up with the bright young things.  In The Times, Alexis Soloski went with the metaphor and called it "a Photoshopped affair," wishing it had been a little harsher and more natural. The cast of six is pretty adorable, though, and the "Big Chill"-like dance number is highly gratifying.

Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street; 20thcenturyblues.com. 1 hour 40 minutes (no intermission).  

 

THE WOLVES

Original comic drama / Closed on Jan. 27

Ask Ben Brantley of The Times what Sarah De Lappe's first play is about, and he'll tell you: "The scary, exhilarating brightness of raw adolescence." This is a return engagement for what Brantley called an "uncannily assured first play," a comedy drama about nine teenage girls, all high school soccer teammates, and just about everything.  The ensemble won Obie and Drama Desk Awards. The play itself was a Pulitzer finalist.

Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center; lct.org.. 1 hour 30 minutes (no intermission).  

 

 

TWELFTH NIGHT

Shakespearean comedy revival (hee-hee) / Closed on Jan. 6

The headline of the New York Times review was "'Twelfth Night' for Beginners." Because, as Ben Brantley explained, this company's (Fiasco Theater) style includes "a winningly prosaic way of delivering thickly poetic dialogue as if that were the way everybody talked these days." Which, dear reader, is what great Shakespearean acting is all about. In this, one of Shakespeare's most frequently staged plays, poor young Viola is shipwrecked, finds herself in a strange land called Illyria, poses as a man (to get a job) and falls in love with her boss, Count Orsino. A number of things ensue, including hilarity, with beloved characters including Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch. 

Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th Street; classicstage.org. 2 hours 30 minutes. Opened on Dec. 14.

MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN

Multimedia  / Closed on Jan. 6

The attraction here is Robert Fairchild, the New York City Ballet star who retired this fall (after a huge success, a Tony-nominated performance in  "An American in Paris," two seasons ago). He plays the monster in this blend of dance, classical music and storytelling focused on the Frankenstein horror story and the life of its author, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.  Joe Dziemianowicz's review in The Daily News said, "It's alive! -- but not kicking." In The Times, Laura Collins-Hughes went with the metaphor too: "For all of the show's flashes of beauty, it remains a collection of disparate parts, not a whole charged with lightning and brought to animated life." But she was enchanted, she said, by Fairchild's "can't-take-your-eyes-off-him eloquence." (In a Dance Magazine interview, Fairchild told Sylviane Gold that the role was perfect for him because he'd always enjoyed "the darker.")

Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street; romanticcentury.org. 1 hour 45 minutes. Limited run.

 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Holiday classic based on a novel / Closed on Dec. 15

The Spirits of Christmas Past here are Geraldine Page and Rip Torn; they lived in this 19th-century Chelsea townhouse (and presumably celebrated holidays here) until Page's death in 1987.  Now the public can visit the couple's cozy upstairs parlor, enjoy mince pie and a warm glass of mulled red wine, and let Charles Dickens's mid-19th-century story of Ebenezer Scrooge wash over them in an intimate solo show.  The very impressive performer is Elmore James, who is an opera star as well as an actor (so his "O Holy Night" is a particular treat).  Using Dickens's original performance text, Mr. James doesn't do all the character voices, but the production's sound effects (from foreboding weather to church bells) are splendid. 

435 West 22nd Street; origintheatre.org. 1 hour 5 minutes (no intermission). Opened on Nov. 30, 2017. 

 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Holiday classic based on a novel / Closed on Dec. 17

The MOD Theater Company’s version of Charles Dickens’s 19th-century Christmas Eve ghost story strives to take a “fresh look at tradition.” Seven performers play 57 characters (among them Ebenezer Scrooge, Marley’s Ghost, Mr. Fezziwig, three scary spirits, Tiny Tim and an unspecified number of other Cratchits).  Nice touch: There’s a 5 p.m. “matinee” on Saturdays.

Beckett Theater, 410 West 42nd Street; modtheatre.org. 1 hour 15 minutes (no intermission). Opened Nov. 24, 2017. 

 

DESCRIBE THE NIGHT

Drama blending historical fact and fiction / Closed on Dec. 24

Rajiv Joseph ("Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo"), the playwright, offers up Russia's invasion of Poland, Stalin's purges, the fall of the Berlin Wall,  Vladimir Putin's regime and the life of a Russian Jewish writer (played by Danny Burstein). The writer is real; many other characters and events are not. Jesse Green's review in The New York Times called the effort "frankly tiresome" with an "impossibly convoluted" plot. 

Linda Gross Theater, 410 West 19th?Street; atlantictheater.org. 2 housr 45 minutes.  Opened on Dec. 5,, 2017. 

 

 

GLASS GUIGNOL

THE BROTHER AND SISTER PLAY

Experimental drama based on Tennessee Williams's work (mostly) / Closed on Dec. 23

Gorillas, ghostly children and a Lord Byron puppet join characters who represent the 20th-century playwright Tennessee Williams and his fragile, lobotomy-candidate sister, Rose. This Mabou Mines production offers, among other things,  a little "Glass Menagerie," a little "Suddenly Last Summer" and a bit of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein." Alex Soloski of The Times admired it in many ways but summed it up as "shock treatment with a low current" It's staged in the Mabou Mines company's new East Village home, in what used to be P.S. 122.

Mabou Mines Theater, 150 First Avenue, at Ninth Street; maboumines.org. 2 hours 35 minutes. Opened on Dec. 7, 2017.

THE PORTUGUESE KID

Original romantic comedy 

From Manhattan Theater Club and the deep and brilliant mind of John Patrick Shanley, the story of a second-rate lawyer, a glamorous widow, their current May-December partners, his grouchy mother, identity,  ethnicity, existence and a house going on the market for $5.5 million, even though it’s in Rhode Island. Jason Alexander, Sherie Rene Scott and Mary Testa star.  

City Center Stage 1, 131 West 55th Street; theportuguesekid.com. 1 hour 40 minutes (no intermission).

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK

British pantomime  / Closed on Dec. 23

Elisabeth Vincentelli's review in The New York Times called it a "funny, big-hearted and utterly charming production" for children and families.  The story keeps the original plot (selling a cow for magic beans, a huge stalk that leads to a giant's home) and adds local silliness. The mayor's name is De Blasé.

Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street, near Pitt Street; abronsartscenter.org. 2 hours. 

JESUS HOPPED THE ‘A’ TRAIN

Drama revival  

Two prisoners sittin’ around talkin’. One is a psychopathic serial murderer. The other is a naïve kid who was just trying to rescue a pal from a religious cult when he shot somebody a little too accurately. The brilliance of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s play, originally produced in 2000, is that you often don’t know which man to side with. Jesse Green’s New York Times review gave it high praise, declaring that the production recreates the play’s “rapture as well as its moral gravity” and “achieves the doubleness of great art, burrowing deeper the higher it flies.”

Signature Theater Center, 480 West 42nd Street; signaturetheatre.org. 2 hours 15 minutes.

 

 

TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY

Original comic drama / Closed on Dec. 23

People don't talk face to face in Susan Soon Hee Stanton's new play. That's because it's set in the present. So the story of one young woman who has failed in New York City and gone home to Oahu (island to island) is told in texts, email messages and radio broadcasts. The Times called it a "charming dramedy" capable of "great humor and poetry."

New Ohio Theater, 154 Christopher Street; page73.org. 1 hour 40 minutes. Opened on Dec. 7, 2017

STRANGE INTERLUDE

Drama revival and one-man show 

Six hours of Eugene O’Neill. One actor playing all the characters. And the critics can’t stop talking about how amazing it is. The extraordinary David Greenspan stars in this marathon solo performance of “Strange Interlude,” O’Neill’s saga of a young woman whose beau dies in World War I, the man she marries, the other man (whose baby she has), the baby (as he grows up), the other other man, inherited insanity, good intentions, secrets and lies. Laura Collins-Hughes’s Times review couldn’t stop raving about the production: “storytelling at its purest,” “an illuminating interpretation,” “astonishing in its clarity, nuance and endurance.” But she thought the play, which first opened on Broadway in 1928, with a cast of nine, was too florid to deserve its Pulitzer Prize.

Irondale Center, 85 South Oxford Street, Brooklyn; irondale.org. 6 hours (with two intermissions and a dinner break).