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Season Preview Off Broadway and off-Off Broadway

By MARK BLANKENSHIP

New York is practically exploding with new plays and musicals this fall. You could go to the theatre eight times a week for two months and still not see everything that's opening Off and off-Off Broadway.

But how do you navigate this theatrical jungle? If you've only got time to see a few shows this fall, how can you find the perfect match?

One great resource is TDF's Show Search, at the top of every page at tdf.org, a regularly updated list of everything playing around the city. You can search by genre (musicals, comedies, dramas, etc.), by classification (Broadway, Off Broadway, off-Off Broadway), or even by shows that are appropriate for children or audiences with special needs. Each production's entry includes a plot description, showtimes, and other valuable information.

To help you start your search, here's a sample of productions opening between now and December in Off Broadway and off-Off Broadway theatres. (For a preview of the Broadway season, just go here .)

This isn't an exhaustive list, but it's a good introduction to what the season has to offer.


Award-Winning Plays

Just a few months ago, Quiara Alegria Hudes won the Pulitzer Prize for Water By the Spoonful, a tragicomedy about an Iraqi vet trying to readjust to life in Philadelphia. Second Stage presents the New York premiere, with performances beginning in December.

Meanwhile, Signature Theatre begins its revival of August Wilson's Pultizer Prize-winner The Piano Lesson on October 30, just one week after it opens Golden Child, a 1998 Tony Award nominee by David Henry Hwang.

Political Drama and Comedy

Anthony LaPalgia stars as Richard Nixon in Checkers, Douglas McGrath's provocative new play about the "Checkers speech," which famously rescued Nixon's scandal-ridden tenure as Vice President in 1952. The play begins previews at the Vineyard on October 12.

If you're hungry for political theatre this very minute, then you can check out Modern Terrorism, which is already in previews at Second Stage. A vicious satire about the misadventures of a group of modern terrorists, the play was written by a writer for The Simpsons.

Musicals

Ars Nova promises that "dumplings, vodka, spectators, and performers" will collide in Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812, which begins performances on October 1. Described as "an electro-pop opera ripped from a scandalous slice of Tolstoy's War and Peace," the show extends Ars Nova's reputation for genre-bending experiences.

Meanwhile, on October 26 the Public begins performances of Giant, the long-awaited new musical from composer Michael John LaChiusa that's based on Edna Ferber's classic novel about thirty years in a Texas family.

Genre-Bending Experiences

In a unique collaboration between HERE Arts Center and the Hip-Hop Theatre Festival, How to Break blends playwriting, beatboxing, rapping, dancing, graffiti art, and multimedia design into a story about two ailing teenagers and the community trying to support them. Performances begin October 18.

Charlie Victor Romeo is similarly unusual. Opening October 4 at 3LD Art & Technology Center, the script is drawn entirely from "black box" transcripts of six major airline emergencies.

Rising Playwrights

In Samuel D. Hunter's The Whale--a big-hearted, funny play which begins performances at Playwrights Horizons on October 12--- a six-hundred pound man hides away in his apartment, apparently eating himself to death. His life changes which he reunites with his daughter and discovers she's feistier than he remembered.

Dysfunctional families also drive Joshua Harmon's comedy Bad Jews, which follows the household explosions when a devoutly Jewish woman learns her cousin is dating a shiksa. Performances begin at Roundabout Underground on October 5.

Famous Writers With New Plays

Christopher Durang updates and lampoons a Chekhov classic in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which begins previews at Lincoln Center on October 25. The star-studded cast includes Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce.

Adam Rapp delivers another provocative vision with Through the Yellow Hour, about a woman who's hiding in a horrifying America where a recent attack has made society collapse. The play opens tomorrow at Rattlestick and runs through October 28.

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Mark Blankenship is TDF's online content editor