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From old favorites to brand-new offerings, here are a dozen promising productions beyond Broadway
Broadway's been getting a lot of the fanfare as theatre in NYC slowly resumes. But Off-Broadway venues are also reopening, including invaluable companies such as the Atlantic Theater Company, Second Stage Theater, Playwrights Horizons and St. Ann's Warehouse. While it's impossible to give a comprehensive overview of everything bowing beyond Broadway this September (that's what TDF's Show Finder is for), we've rounded up a dozen promising productions, including timely new plays, a couple of musical comedies and the classic Blue Man Group, which turns 30 this year.
In terms of COVID-19 safety protocols, all of these productions require theatregoers to provide proof of being fully vaccinated with an FDA or WHO authorized vaccine. If you plan to attend with a child under 12 who is too young to be vaccinated, check the show's website for info on providing a negative COVID-19 test. Masks are also mandatory.
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Linda Gross Theater, 336 West 20th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues in Chelsea
Previews August 26. Opens September 13. Closes September 26.
In 2018, Nigerian-American playwright Ngozi Anyanwu made her Off-Broadway debut on Atlantic Theater Company's smaller stage with The Homecoming Queen, a close-to-home tale about a successful immigrant novelist who returns to Nigeria to tend to her ailing father. With her new two-hander The Last of the Love Letters, Anyanwu graduates to the Atlantic's mainstage and to the spotlight. Originally trained as an actor (her credits include HBO's The Deuce and Good Grief at the Vineyard Theatre), Anyanwu costars opposite Tina Tony nominee Daniel J. Watts in this poetic meditation on the challenges of staying in and letting go of love. Patricia McGregor directs.
Frederick Loewe Theatre at Hunter College, 119 East 68th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues on the Upper East Side
Previews August 28. Opens September 8. Closes October 10.
When Tony-winning playwright-director Richard Nelson began his Rhinebeck Panorama 11 years ago with the Apple Family quartet, he couldn't imagine what the future would bring—and that was part of the point. From 2010 to 2013, he created one hyper-realistic play a year about the title clan as they grappled with national milestones such as the 10th anniversary of September 11, the 2012 reelection of Barack Obama and the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination. He revised every installment extensively up until opening night, resulting in an uncanny reflection of the moment. Over the past decade, he's launched similar series about other Rhinebeck residents, the Gabriels and the Michaels, as each white, left-leaning family faced the same challenges we were all navigating in real time. After three Zoom plays during the pandemic about the Apple family, Nelson turns his attention back to the Michaels as they process what we've been through in What Happened?, which finds the clan traveling abroad for the first time since our world was upended. Real-life spouses Maryann Plunkett and Jay O. Sanders, who've portrayed characters in all three series, star in this final chapter of Nelson's 12-play cycle.
Astor Place Theatre, 434 Lafayette Street near Astor Place in the East Village
Starts September 3. Open run.
When Blue Man Group opened in 1991, it was considered offbeat performance art. Thirty years later, it's a well-established international brand that continues to charm whimsy-loving audiences of all ages. The times may have changed but Blue Man Group stays, more or less, the same, with a trio of literal blue men engaging in absurd and hilarious antics without uttering a sound—although they're backed by quite a loud band. This family favorite transcends generations and is a great first show for elementary schoolers, who invariably crack up at the goofy and slightly gross gags. Warning: If you don't want to get hit with various liquids, don't sit up front.
Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street between Bleecker and Hudson Streets in the West Village
Previews September 8. Opens September 21. Closes October 17. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase discount tickets.
Written by Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok (Cost of Living, queens, Ironbound), Sanctuary City was only a few previews in to its six-week run in March 2020 when it abruptly closed due to the pandemic. Although New York Theatre Workshop filmed the production for posterity, the institution committed to bringing it back once possible. That time has come. Like many of Majok's previous plays, Sanctuary City focuses on the plight of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, as three longtime friends fight to establish a place for themselves and each other in the US. Olivier Award winner Rebecca Frecknall directs Jasai Chase-Owens, Sharlene Cruz and Austin Smith in this moving piece, which unfolds in an unexpected, nonlinear way. Note: Sunday performances are socially distanced, with empty seats on both sides of each party.
Connelly Theatre, 220 East 4th Street between Avenues A and B in the East Village
Previews September 11. Opens September 28. Closes October 31.
Reinventing classics is Bedlam's specialty. The company's innovative, stripped-down stagings of The Crucible, Pygmalion and Saint Joan won the theatre many fans and critical accolades. But Bedlam's biggest hit was its lively take on Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility, which ran Off Broadway for more than a year. Perhaps that's why artistic director Eric Tucker has chosen an Austen adaptation for the troupe's first show back: Persuasion. The English author's last completed novel was published posthumously and takes place in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, as a shy spinster attempts to win back the lover she spurned years earlier. A meditation on love and loss, the production is helmed by Tucker with a script by Sarah Rose Kearns.
Tony Kiser Theater, 305 West 43rd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues in Midtown West
Previews September 14. Opens October 12. Closes October 24.
Second Stage Theater presents a world premiere by playwright Rajiv Joseph, who was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. A companion piece to his Animals Out of Paper, which ran at Second Stage in 2008, Letters of Suresh is an epistolary work, as notes between strangers and loved ones unravel intimate mysteries and reveal our need for human connection across time and tragedy. May Adrales directs Ali Ahn, Ramiz Monsef, Kellie Overbey and Thom Sesma in this haunting play.
HERE, 145 Sixth Avenue at Dominick Street in Soho
Previews September 17. Opens September 20. Closes October 9. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase discount tickets.
Colt Coeur's last in-person show before the pandemic was Eureka Day, a critically acclaimed dark comedy about anti-vax parents at a private school—talk about incredible timing! The company returns to the stage with another piece about a polarizing topic, Polylogues, performer-playwright Xandra Nur Clark's interview-based solo show about real people's experiences with nonmonogamy. Clark wears headphones on stage so she can listen to the candid recordings as she channels these intimate stories. The result is a no-holds-barred examination of open sexual relationships and their impact on loved ones.
DR2 Theatre, 103 East 15th Street between Union Square East and Irving Place near Union Square Park
Previews September 17. Opens September 27. Closes November 21. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase discount tickets.
In this new musical comedy created by and costarring Alex Wyse and Ben Fankhauser, two nobodies dream of writing a hit song. But their day job composing commercial jingles isn't the big break they had hoped. Then world-famous pop star Regina Comet rockets into their lives and tasks them with penning the theme for her new perfume. Will this turn into the sweet smell of success? Broadway vet Bryonha Marie Parham (After Midnight, The Book of Mormon) plays the title diva.
Westside Theatre, 407 West 43rd Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues in Midtown West
Starts September 21. Closes January 9, 2022.
Newsies Tony nominee and controversial nerd Jeremy Jordan was less than a week away from taking over the role of Seymour in Michael Mayer's hit revival of Little Shop of Horrors when theatres shut down. Appropriately, "on the 21st day of the month of September," he'll finally step into Seymour's weatherworn shoes to woo his downtrodden dream girl Audrey and grapple with a manipulative man-eating plant. Original stars Tammy Blanchard and Christian Borle return as Audrey and her sadistic dentist boyfriend in this camp classic with songs by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman.
St Ann's Warehouse, 45 Water Street near New Dock Street in Dumbo, Brooklyn
Starts September 21. Closes October 3.
Brooklyn's St. Ann's Warehouse reopens with a musical collaboration between groundbreaking artist and activist Justin Vivian Bond and Metropolitan Opera countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo. Titled Only an Octave Apart, this staged concert features the singers exploring the discordant yet complementary histories of opera and politically subversive cabaret, two art forms dominated and "kept alive for generations by queens," as per the fabulously blunt Bond. Expect offbeat humor, eclectic songs and thrilling harmonies from these two iconoclasts.
Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd Street between Ninth and Dyer Avenues in Midtown West
Starts September 24. Closes October 17.
After a critically acclaimed Off Broadway run by the Movement Theatre Company in 2018, Aleshea Harris' What to Send Up When It Goes Down is being resurrected this fall at Playwrights Horizons, and this genre-defying experience feels even more essential in our post-George Floyd world. Created specifically for Black people though all are welcome, the work grapples with the trauma of racist violence through satirical sketches, spiritual communion and audience interactions. Whitney White once again directs this potent piece.
The Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson Street between West 3rd Street and Washington Square South in the West Village
Starts September 30. Closes November 21.
A dance-theatre hit that shuttered early due to the pandemic, Beyond Babel returns to complete the last eight weeks of its run. A street dance riff on Romeo and Juliet about lovers divided by a wall, the show was created by Hideaway Circus and married dancer-choreographers Keone and Mari Madrid, who also star. Vets of many a music video, the spouses are up-and-comers on the musical theatre scene who are slated to choreograph the Broadway-bound shows Once Upon a One More Time and The Karate Kid. See them live on stage in this evocative romance set to songs by Billie Eilish, Chance the Rapper, Mumford & Sons, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes and other pop icons.
Raven Snook is the Editor of TDF Stages. Follow her at @RavenSnook. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.
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