The Playgoer: The Non-Broadway Season: The Big 4

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Non-Broadway Season: The Big 4

In the spirit of all the season previews I've been soliciting from around the country this past month, I might as well do the same for NYC. But with Broadway openings "always already" over-exposed, I'd like to focus just on the most prominent nonprofit theatre companies.

So to begin with, here are the links and rundowns for the four biggies, our large nonprofit institutions.

Public Theater: Beginning with the hot ticket of Philip Seymour Hoffman starring in Peter Sellars' Othello, a very limited run off-site at NYU. Also much anticipated, a full presentation of Tarell Alvin MacCraney's series of "Brother/Sister" plays: The Brothers Size, previously seen at the Public, now joined by Marcus;or the Secret of Sweet and In the Red and Brown Water. (For more on what all the fuss about MacCraney is about, see this month's American Theatre.) The spring brings a new Suzan-Lori Parks play, directed by young Brit James (A Number, Dying City) MacDonald. Personally I'm looking forward most to Richard Foreman returning to the Public, breaking out of his Ontological basement space to bring us something called Idiot Savant, starring no less than Willem Dafoe. And to round out their season, Mike Daisey returns with his latest monologue, The Last Cargo Cult, "the true-life story of his time on a remote South Pacific island whose inhabitants worship America."

Roundabout Theatre Company: Well we've all heard enough about Bye Bye Birdie by now--of which perhaps the most notable feature is its launching of the company's fourth(!) space, the renovated Henry Miller's Theatre. (Of the four, note that three are now Broadway venues.) What follows at Roundabout is predictably safe and predictably imported: Judith Ivey's revival of Glass Menagerie that premiered at Long Wharf this summer; from London, Patrick Marber's Strindberg-inspired After Miss Julie (though with a new cast); Victor Garber in Noel Coward's Present Laughter; a new Theresa Rebeck play, The Understudy; then last and probably least, the Carrie Fisher vanity solo-show Wishful Drinking, also imported (from LA). The Marber is probably the most interesting of the lot, and I'm happy for Victor Garber's return to the stage. But overall, looks pretty humdrum.

Lincoln Center Theatre: South Pacific sings on into its third year, with no sign of vacating the flagship Beaumont space. So LCT will rent out the Broadway Lyceum for their big opening, Sarah Ruhl's new "vibrator" play--or, as she calls it: In the Next Room; or, The Vibrator Play. (I do wish playwrights would stop using the word "play" or "project" in their titles. It's enough to make even a fan of meta-theatricality like me cranky.) In their smaller Newhouse space Off Broadway will be, first, the lesser known author Nathan Louis Jackson with his Broke-ology and, in February, Australian Andrew Bovell's When the Rain Stops Falling, the directed by the fine David Cromer. And in their new, even smaller "LCT3" venue will feature What Once We Felt, a big break for 13P writer Anne Marie Healy (of Have You Seen Steve Steven). Worth noting that here, too, none of these plays, except for Healy's, are world premieres.

Manhattan Theatre Club: While last season's Accent on Youth, MTC's first foray into "classic Broadway" revival (as opposed to their professed new plays/new writers mission) fizzled, I actually hold out hope for their well-cast revival of Kaufman and Ferber's old Barrymore-spoof, The Royal Family. Doug Hughes will direct*. As with Accent, the big MTC Broadway-size house (formerly Biltmore, now the "Friedman") will finally seem suited to the plays they produce. While no one has lately demanded a Donald Margulies festival, MTC will give us both a revival of the pretty recent Collected Stories (with Linda Lavin reprising her role from the TV version) and, on the Broadway mainstage, his latest, Time Stands Still, about Iraq war correspondents....Meanwhile, with all the expense lavished on their season opener, MTC is cutting back to two stages from their usual three. So the smaller City Center theatre will welcome Gary Hines directing a fictionalization of Shakespeare meets the Gunpowder Plot (Equivocation) and another new English play, That Face. The obligatory pseudo-celeb solo-show slot goes to Lynn Redgrave with Nightingale.

All in all, there's definitely stuff listed above I want to see. But here's a question: would you shell out $200-$300 to any one of these theatres for their whole slate? And: if you did, could you still afford to go to any of the other offerings?

*Correction: I wrongly believed Daniel Sullivan was directing The Royal Family, so these sentences have now been slightly rewritten. Apologies.


Cyril said...

Why do I know a bunch of (non-playwright!) professionals who think McCraney's work is, at best, hugely overrated, yet this is never mentioned in the fawning press...?

Tarell is beginning to believe his hype, too. I worry about that.

Violet Vixen said...

I think it might be worth it for the Public season. Certainly the Foreman piece would be exciting and obligatory enough to make me want to secure a ticket early. But I'm generally a fan of subscribing to a season and hoping for the best. Certainly compared to the big players here in LA, these seasons look pretty exciting to me.

Obsidian Theatre said...

Ok it's a quibble but it has to be said. The hyphen goes between Suzan and Lori not between Lori and Parks.
Suzan-Lori Parks

Playgoer said...

Seriously, thank you! I always get that wrong.

Duly emended...

Andrew said...

Ditto about the Public. I was kind of shocked to realize that I wanted to see all of their plays, and with some enthusiasm, too. Suzan-Lori Parks is fantastic, always curious about Foreman, and I read and loved Red and Brown Water.

No, not at all, to the other theatres.

Playgoer said...

As noted in the post now, I got the director wrong for MTC's "Royal Family." Daniel Sullivan is NOT directing. For a change.