There’s an unusually interesting array of worthwhile shows Off-Broadway this spring, which is home to the avant-garde and the the artistic as wells as some classics and parodies that might not necessarily appeal to the tourist masses. You can see: the play that started Lynn Nottage’s stellar career; Sarah Ruhl’s latest, based on a true relationship between teacher and student; a delightful sequel to Oscar Wilde’s greatest work; a play never before performed–written decades ago by a famous novelist; and a satirical take on (arguably) Netflix’s most popular series.
“What I love about Off-Broadway is that plays can take bigger risks,” says Upper West Side playwright and filmmaker Caytha Jentis. “It’s a more intimate form of storytelling since the theaters are typically smaller than Broadway houses.”
Ready to roll? The Mint company—whose mission is rediscovering old chestnuts—is presenting “Becomes A Woman” at City Center’s Theatre 2. The playwright was Betty Smith who won every young woman’s heart and mind with her novel, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” It turns out her passion was for the theatre, but this play was never performed. (Smith’s 100-year old daughter showed up last week) Up only through March 18.
In the same complex, in Theatre One, is Manhattan Theatre Club’s “The Best We Could,” by Emily Feldman and starring Aya Cash and Frank Wood as father and daughter on a cross country road trip. (Likely up through March) Nearby, at the Laura Pels, “The Wanderers” is a complex tale of two married Jewish couples. Its cast includes Sarah Cooper and Katie Holmes and all are doing top notch work that manages to resonate and surprise. Up through April 2.
Two great performers—Bill Irwin and John Douglas Thompson—are wowing audiences in the latest rendition of Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame.” That is at the Irish Repertory Theater on 132 W. 22nd St, where its run was extended four more weeks through April 9th.
At Theatre Row, on W. 42nd St, you will be mesmerized by The Keen Company’s production of “Crumbs From The Table of Joy,” which started two-time Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage on her way. A terrific cast of five take us back to 1950’s Brooklyn where a black man tries to raise two daughters who have very different dreams of their own There are countless memorable sentiments about “a handful of misgivings.” Up through April 1.
“The Rewards of Being Frank” is a charming and very funny piece produced by the New York Classical Theatre company. Written by Alice Scovell, this one imagines what those Wilde characters from “The Importance of Being Earnest” were doing next time they got together. The production had a highly successful run in Cincinnati. “I had seen “Earnest”. twice. within five days, then carefully re-read “Earnest” twice, marking it up heavily. Then I wrote a rough draft in three weeks--but a very rough draft. I spent then next four yearsre-writing it to create the play.” The play is up at least through March 26 at the A.R.T complex on W. 53rd St.
There are many more including a pair from two other female playwrights: “Letters From Max,” by two-time Pulitzer nominee, Sarah Ruhl, is at Pershing Square’s Signature complex. (Through March 19) The words are poetic and a true correspondence from Ruhl’s life. The Public Theatre is presenting the latest from Suzan Lori-Parks, called “The Harder They Come” (Based on the famous film) Up through March 26
Perhaps the most successful pair of off-Broadway plays are of the musical variety. “Little Shop of Horrors,” that oldie but goodie, remains at the Westside Theatre. More surprisingly, “Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical,” has been constantly extended and now is up through at least April. That one is filling Playhouse 46 at St Luke’s nightly. Even of you are not familiar with the TV series, it is campy fun. This is created by a young man named Jonathan Hogue who is simultaneously getting his MFA at Columbia. “I want to learn all aspects of the business,” Hogue told me.
The Irish Arts Center at 553 W. 51st St. is holding an open house on Sunday, March 19th from 12 pm to 4 pm featuring traditional music and dance performances, live piano karaoke singalongs of Irish classics, arts and crafts, short films, and a wealth of sample classes across disciplines.
Michele Willens’ “Stage Right..or Not” airs weekly on robinhoodradio.