A ‘Choice List’ for Off-Broadway This Spring
By Jil Picariello, Theater Editor, March 16, 2017
From Lieutenant Sulu to Stephen Sondheim, Joan of Arc to John Leguizamo, the Off-Broadway spring season truly has something for everyone. But since I’m most interested in what it has for me, here’s a quick look at ten of my must-see Off-Broadway productions from now until the dog days of summer.
The historical choice: Joan of Arc: Into the Fire
February 14-April 30 at the Public Theater
The Talking Heads’ David Byrne does for Saint Joan what he did for sinner Imelda Marcos. With Alex Timbers again at the helm, this rock musical concert is sure to be unlike any Joan of Arc tale you’ve ever seen.
The hilarious choice: Latin History for Morons
February 24-April 23 at the Public Theater
When John Leguizamo noticed a near total absence of Latinos in his son’s American history class he did what any concerned Latinto parent would do: He wrote a one-man show about it.
The transcendent choice: How to Transcend a Happy Marriage
February 23-May 7 at the Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center
From the brilliant mind of Sarah Ruhl (In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play, The Clean House) comes a moving play about two married couples and the polyamorous woman (and her two partners) they invite to New Year’s Eve. The play explores love, marriage, and the ethics of killing your own food. Directed by Rebecca Taichman and starring Lena Hall (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and the forever-young Marisa Tomei.
The classic choice: The Hairy Ape
March 23-April 22 at the Park Avenue Armory
Eugene O’Neill + Bobby Cannavale = not-to-be-missed. An “iconic piece of expressionist drama” from 1921, the play is a searing social commentary on the divide between rich and poor (sounds perfectly of the moment to me). Directed by Richard Jones and starring the above-referenced Mr. Cannavale as a coal shoveler toiling in the bowels of an ocean liner.
The classics choice: Vanity Fair
March 24-April 30 at the Pearl Theatre
From the brilliant Kate Hamill, who delivered the lively and antic Sense & Sensibility last year, this work is adapted from the famous Victorian novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. Poor, plain, smart Becky Sharp is the ultimate climber in a world that values manners and birth above talent and brains.
The mystery choice: The Antipodes
April 4-May 21 at the Signature Theatre
Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Baker (The Flick) returns for the second production of her Signature residency with The Antipodes. Just like her last production (John), where little (well, nothing) was revealed about the play’s plot, all we know this time is that it’s “a play about people telling stories about people telling stories.” We do know that it’s directed by Lila Neugebauer and stars Josh Charles (The Good Wife).
The Sondheim choice: Pacific Overtures
April 6-May 27 at the Classic Stage Company
There are two Sondheim productions running Off-Broadway this spring. The first—a yes, we’re actually in a pie shop, production of Sweeney Todd at the re-imagined Barrow Street—has already opened. The second—a CSC production of Pacific Overtures directed by stripped-down-Sondheim king John Doyle—is coming soon. And bringing us the ageless Mr. Sulu himself, George Takei.
The Hottentot choice: Venus
April 25-TBA at the Signature Theatre
From Pulitzer Prize-winner Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog), Venus is inspired by the true story of Saartjie Baartman, who left her home in southern Africa for what she hoped would be a better life and became a star on the 19th century London freak show circuit for the size of her posterior. This Obie-winning play covers her rise to fame as the “Hottentot Venus,” and her eventual relationship with a French scientist. Directed by Lear deBessonet.
The personal choice: The Cost of Living
April 26-TBA at the Manhattan Theatre Club
Just because I liked her play, Ironbound, at the Rattlestick last season, I am excited to see what comes next for Martyna Majok. The story of four people—an unemployed truck driver, his ex-wife who is recovering from an accident, a brilliant doctoral student, and an overworked caregiver—all just trying to get by, The Cost of Living “delves into the chasm between abundance and need.” Directed by Jo Bonney.
The relevant choice: Julius Caesar
May 23-June 18 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park
Saying, “Shakespeare’s political masterpiece has never felt more contemporary,” the Public Theater is starting this summer of free Shakespeare with Julius Caesar, helmed by none other than the Public’s Artistic Director himself, Oskar Eustis. Last seen in the park 17 years ago, this tale of a populist leader who seems bent on absolute power seems just right for the times. And the price is right.
Plus a bonus choice: Shakespeare again — Hamlet
June 20-September 3 at the Public Theater
If you just can’t get enough of the Bard of Avon, check out the Public’s upcoming production of that old chestnut Hamlet, June 20-September 3. Starring Oscar Isaac as the dithering Dane and directed by Sam Gold, who is having a very busy season (The Glass Menagerie and A Doll’s House, Part 2).
Cover: Jo Lampert (center) and the company of ‘Joan of Arc: Into the Fire;’ photo: Joan Marcus.