Sojourners and Her Portmanteau, in repertory at the New York Theatre Workshop, want to be heard. Mfoniso Udofia’s plays, conceived of as part of a nine-play multigenerational chronicle (of which five have been written) of the Nigerian-American Ufot family, saunter from moment to moment, expanding each dramatic beat to examine it with microscopic curiosity. Though the result, as shaped by director Ed Sylvanus Iskandar and dramaturg Janice Paran, is often excruciatingly dry, the plays demand a witnessing of their American immigrants’ stories.
Waterwell’s production of Hamlet is probably not for the first-timer to Shakespeare’s masterpiece. Under director Tom Ridgely, the tragedy has been reset in Iran of the early 20th century rather than Denmark of the 1500s. Parts of the play are spoken in Farsi, and if, for instance, you didn’t know what Hamlet’s father’s Ghost says to him, you’re going to be out of luck, since the physically and vocally formidable Barzin Akhavan speaks entirely in Farsi. Other passages require familiarity with the play to be understood, notably Hamlet’s exchange with Ophelia about lying in her lap during The Murder of Gonzago, or Hamlet’s crucial plan to insert lines of his own. (The last, however, is covered by some English dialogue later, but until that arises, a new listener would be confused.)
In 1922, Alan Alexander (A. A.) Milne’s The Lucky One was originally produced in New York. Milne is best known for his children stories about a good-natured teddy bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, and his friendship with a boy, Christopher Robin (named after Milne's son). Before the extraordinary success of Winnie-the-Pooh, Milne had published three novels and 18 plays. Two of them, Mr. Pim Passes By and The Truth About Blayds, the Mint Theater Company has previously resurrected.
Samuel Beckett’s ironically titled Happy Days echoes the same vein of his jaundiced view of mankind’s fate as the line from Waiting for Godot: “They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.” Happy Days concerns Winnie, a woman buried up to her waist in a huge sand dune in Act I, and up to her neck in Act II. It’s a deft physical characterization of dying: the earth reclaims each of us from the moment of birth, and slowly we return to it.
The third annual Queerly festival will be presented at the Kraine Theater (85 East 4th St., between Second Avenue and the Bowery) from June 23–July 1. The festival, presented by Frigid New York @ Horsetrade, will feature cabaret, musical theater, solo performances, comedy and readings in what Frigid calls “gender-liminal, super-gay, non-conformist, totally butch, aggressively femme and subversive AF celebration of all things LGBTQA.” Tickets to the festival events are $20, unless otherwise noted) and are available for purchase by visiting www.horseTRADE.info.
Leaving no explorer-themed cliché unturned, Ernest Shackleton Loves Me boldly goes where many, many musicals have gone before, weaving a story of ersatz empowerment out of artistic crisis. The show, which encumbers a pair of insanely talented performers with thankless roles at the center of a human cartoon, patronizes and demeans its audience in its eagerness to be idiosyncratic.
The “whites only” and “colored only” entrances to the immersive portion of 3/Fifths at 3LD Art & Technology Center in lower Manhattan are visible not only to wary ticket-holders, but to everyday pedestrians who happen to pass by the glass façade. Indeed, 3/Fifths holds a funhouse mirror to systemic racism in America by uniting the reality of everyday injustice with immersive theatrical experience.
Target Margin Theater’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra signals its nonconformist nature by having its audience to gather outside the Abrons Art Center, packed together like rush-hour travelers. The production, which is part promenade, rejects the usual, classical interpretation of O’Neill’s trilogy, which has often proved difficult to pull off. But director David Herskovits, in his progressively exhilarating realization of Mourning Becomes Electra, comes close to throwing off the curse.
There are two Isidores in the Catholic canon of saints: Isidore the Farmer, a simple 12th-century workhand and the patron of farmers and laborers, and Isidore of Seville, a 7th-century scholar who attempted to document the entirety of human knowledge and is patron saint of the Internet. Both Isidores haunt Martín Zimmerman’s Seven Spots on the Sun, a moving anti-war polemic now playing at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, which charts the lingering depredations of civil conflict on the dispossessed members of an imagined Latin American village.
Few contemporary playwrights embrace the “one for me, one for them” trajectory as starkly as Enda Walsh. The prolific Irish writer/director alternates between loony, incisive chamber psychodramas (Misterman, Ballyturk) and loony, broad crowd-pleasers (Once, Roald Dahl’s The Twits, Lazarus) with a panache that marks him as a distinctly 21st-century artist, hard to pin down and adept at re-invention. His latest St. Ann’s Warehouse transfer, Arlington, sits firmly in the former camp, stretching his trademark idiosyncratic investigation of the effects of isolation on wild, creative minds toward exciting new abstractions.
Red Bull Theater will present a special concert reading of a new musical based on William Wycherley’s 1675 Restoration comedy The Country Wife. The show, identically titled, has music by Richard Maltby Jr. and lyrics by David Shire, and will be presented for two nights only, on Sunday, June 18, and Monday, June 19, at The Duke on 42nd Street (229 West 42nd St., between Seventh and Eighth avenues). The concert, directed by Maltby, will feature, among others, current Drama Desk nominee Ed Dixon, Carson Elrod, and Ann Harada. Tickets are available by calling (212) 352-3101 or visiting www.redbulltheater.com.
Marry Harry revives a genre not much seen in these parts lately, the charm musical. The work of Jennifer Robbins (book), Dan Martin (music), and Michael Biello (lyrics), the show is small and hasn’t much on its mind, just the urge to put a few likable characters through a simple story and send its audience out with a collective feeling of “Aww.” Thanks to an attractive production on the intimate York Theatre stage and an overqualified cast, it gets its “Aww,” though it also earns a couple of orders of “You can’t be serious.”
Siobhan O’Loughlin is presenting her solo performance play Broken Bone Bathtub at the Red Room on Monday nights through June 26. The immersive one-person play takes place with the performer inside an actual bathtub. After a serious bike accident, a young woman musters up the courage to ask for help, and shares her story, exploring themes of trauma, suffering, human generosity and connection. The audience takes on the role of Siobhan’s close friends, listening and sharing their own experiences, and assisting the cast-clad artist in her ritual of taking a bath. The Red Room, at 85 E. 4th St., is part of KGB Bar. Performances are at 7 p.m. (with none on May 29), and tickets are $35; there is a one-drink minimum per person. To order tickets, visit artful.ly.
The 2017 United Solo Theatre Festival, the world’s largest festival of solo performances, will be held at Theatre Row (410 W. 42nd St. between 9th and 10th avenues in the studio theater) from Sept. 14 to Nov. 19. The festival presents renowned artists and new talents featured in local and international shows. Performance genres range from drama, storytelling, puppetry, and multimedia shows to stand-up, magic, improvisation, dance, and musical. For tickets ($37.50) and information visit http://unitedsolo.org/us/ufest/.
Bucket Club’s inventive Fossils is one of the quirkier Brits Off Broadway 2017 entries so far, with its plastic dinosaur people and range of questionable accents. If the script doesn’t equal the rich world that the company conjures through sound and light, the play is still a beautiful reminder of the diverse material that Britain’s robust training system and government arts subsidies can produce.
Remember the Dead End Kids? Possibly not, unless you’re a student of B-movie genres or a Turner Classic Movies junkie. But the kids, led by Billy Halop, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, and Gabriel Dell, enjoyed a film career starting in the Depression—cracking wise, getting into scraps, peddling broad Noo Yawk accents, and challenging authority. The kids prospered at several studios, well into the 1950s and long past being kids. To many a moviegoer in flyover states, the Dead End Kids were New York.
British playwright J. B. Priestley is best known for An Inspector Calls, his 1945 play that Stephen Daldry revived in a revelatory production in 1992 in London and in 1994 on Broadway. There followed for the neglected Priestley occasional Off-Broadway revivals of his works: in New York, Dangerous Corner in 1995, and Time and the Conways in 2002, both family dramas that played with time, and The Glass Cage, a splendid family play set in Canada, presented by the Mint Theater in 2008.
A night at the newest production of Baghdaddy might begin with a cup of coffee, a doughnut, and a name tag. From the start, the audience is thrown right into the midst of Marshall Pailet and A.D. Penedo’s punchy political musical. Actors sit in the audience, and audience members sit on the stage as the show begins with a support group for the CIA operatives and others who played a role in starting the war in Iraq.
Boris Akunin’s Hamlet. A Version reimagines Shakespeare’s classic tale of political intrigue as a multi-layered murder mystery. Akunin, a Russian writer best known for his Sherlock Holmes–like character Fandorin, which has a cult following, does not write just for thrills. His Hamlet is a tragedy but also a whodunit.
Annie Baker loves to write sad men. From dropouts KJ and Jasper in The Aliens to lonely movie geeks Sam and Avery in 2014 Pulitzer Prize–winner The Flick, Baker’s plays are populated with lovable losers who can’t quite figure out what they want out of life, and probably wouldn’t be able to get it if they did. The awkward silences that punctuate her comedic quasi-dramas are electric with lost futures, crippling insecurity, and unspoken desires