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Exciting & Inexpensive Theatre: 16 Shows to See Off-Off Broadway in May

By: Andrew Block
Date: May 13, 2022

Catch a solo stage adaptation of Titanic, Puppetopia, The Forward Festival of the Arts and more


Adventurous audiences know that some of the biggest theatrical thrills are found on NYC's smallest stages. These shows are also great for theatregoers on a budget. In fact, TDF members can see dozens of Off-Off Broadway productions for as little as $11! Not a TDF member? Consider joining our Go Off-Off and Beyond program, which gives you access to discount tickets to indie theatre, music and dance performances for a one-time fee of five bucks.

In terms of COVID-19 safety protocols, all of these productions require audiences to provide proof of full vaccination and wear masks (unless otherwise indicated). A few also mandate booster shots. Note that health and safety rules vary by venue, so double-check the protocols before purchasing tickets so you arrive prepared.


UP Theater Company: A Barn Play - May 4

Fort Washington Collegiate Church, 729 West 181st Street between Fort Washington Avenue and Magaw Place in Washington Heights

Begins May 4. Closes May 21. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase $12 tickets.

UP Theater Company, one of the few troupes based in Northern Manhattan, presents A Barn Play, Lizzie Donahue's dark comedy about the politics of making art. Owl wants everything his way when rehearsing his play, but when a crisis ensues, his opinionated cast of farm animals revolts and comes up with their own poignant show . Leslie Kincaid Burby directs this grown-up fable about fighting oppression through art.


The Brick: Never Let Go - May 5

The Brick, 579 Metropolitan Avenue near Lorimer Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Begins May 5. Closes May 21.

His art will go on! Writer-performer Michael Kinnan presents an encore run of his 60-minute solo stage adaptation of Titanic, James Cameron's Oscar-winning three-hour cinematic epic. With minimal props (the necklace, a step ladder, a splash zone) and major talent, he transforms his legit love for the movie into an exhilarating low-tech theatrical experience in which he plays every character convincingly. Kinnan has been doing the show since 2017 and his run last year at The Brick received a rave review in The New York Times. In this brilliant reimagining of a pop-culture touchstone, he's truly the king of the world.


Sheen Center: Chekhov + Turgenev: About Love and Three Sisters - May 10

Sheen Center, 18 Bleecker Street between Mott and Elizabeth Streets in Noho

Begins May 10. Closes June 5. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase $18 tickets to About Love or Three Sisters.

Note: Proof of a booster shot required.

Will Pomerantz adapts and directs a pair of potent pieces about love by two of Russia's greatest writers: Anton Chekhov and Ivan Turgenev. Inspired by Turgenev's short story First Love, About Love centers on a young man whose summer getaway with his family turns into a life-changing lesson about romance. Meanwhile, Chekhov's classic Three Sisters explores how longing can lead to disappointment. Presented in repertory at the Sheen Center, both productions feature original jazz scores performed by a live quartet.


HERE: Puppetopia - May 11

HERE, 145 Sixth Avenue at Dominick Street in Soho

Begins May 11. Closes May 22.

HERE has long been a destination for cutting-edge puppetry for adults. But Puppetopia is the theatre's inaugural mini festival of eclectic puppet works, some fully realized, others still in development. Sponsored by the the Jim Henson Foundation and presented in four separate programs on both of HERE's stages, the two-week event includes Christopher Williams and Patti Bradshaw's Walking Iris inspired by botanical wonders; Andy Gaukel's Animist, an exploration of depression and isolation; Kate Brehm's The Eye Which We Do Not Have about suppressed female desire and Lake Simons' Sorry About the Weather, a meditation on dementia. If you thought puppetry was child's play, Puppetopia will surprise you.


Mabou Mines: The Vicksburg Project - May 11

Mabou Mines, 150 First Avenue at 9th Street in the East Village

Begins May 11. Closes May 29.

Note: Proof of a booster shot required.

Pioneering experimental collective Mabou Mines marks its 52-year anniversary with The Vicksburg Project, a docutheatre work exploring the experiences of women and gender-expansive people in Vicksburg, Mississippi, a small city pivotal to the violent and racist history of our nation. Originally conceived by composer Eve Beglarian as a song cycle, the project evolved when writer-performer Karen Kandel and director Mallory Catlett joined the collaboration, which delves into four distinct eras—the Civil War, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement and today—using diary entries, newspaper accounts, letters and interviews as fodder.


The Play Company: Will You Come With Me? - May 11

MITU580, 580 Sackett Street between Nevins Street and Third Avenue in Gowanus, Brooklyn

Begins May 11. Closes June 5. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase $15 tickets.

Note: Proof of a booster shot required.

The Obie-winning Play Company presents Will You Come With Me?, Turkish playwright Ebru Nihan Celkan's harrowing two-hander about Umut and Janina, two women who meet and fall in love in Istanbul where queer youths are pushing back against oppression. Using video recordings and phone calls to keep in touch, Umut is torn between staying at home to fight for change or accepting Janina's invitation to move to Berlin where they can live freely. Intimate and explosive.


The New York Neo-Futurists: Try This on for Me - May 12

The Black Box @ Playwrights Downtown, 440 Layfette Street near Astor Place in the East Village

Begins May 12. Closes May 21.

Note: Proof of a booster shot required.

Best known for the long-running improv sketch comedy Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, the radically creative New York Neo-Futurists presents Lee LeBreton's Try This on for Me, an immersive and surreal flea market where audiences go on a journey through the joys and challenges of getting dressed. Everyone leaves with a souvenir, presumably ready to wear. Space is limited for this intimate and personalized experience!


EPIC Players: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - May 12

A.R.T./New York Theatres, 502 West 53rd Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues in Midtown West

Begins May 12. Closes May 22.

Since its founding in 2016, the neurodiverse theatre company EPIC Players has cast artists with developmental disabilities such as autism and Down syndrome alongside their neurotypical peers. This month it presents a revival of William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a hilarious musical about a group of tween misfits competing to win while connecting as friends. Come prepared to participate—there are lots of opportunities to show off your spelling skills.


Astoria Performing Arts Center: Your Negro Tour Guide - May 12

Astoria Performing Arts Center, 44-02 23rd Street between 44th Road and 44th Avenue in Long Island City, Queens

Begins May 12. Closes May 23. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase $12 tickets.

Inspired by the columns and National Public Radio commentaries featured in Kathy Y. Wilson's book Your Negro Tour Guide: Truths in Black & White, this searing solo show examines racist misconceptions about Black beauty, Black homophobia, Black on Black bigotry and other dangerous stereotypes. Torie Wiggins portrays the truth teller under Jeff Griffin's direction in this coproduction from APAC and the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati.


Irondale: Mother Courage and Her Children - May 12

The Space at Irondale, 85 South Oxford Street between Lafayette and Greene Avenues in Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Begins May 12. Closes June 5.

Note: Masks required except while actively eating or drinking. Vaccination not required.

The inventive artists at Irondale transform their cavernous space into a German beer garden complete with brews and bites for this unforgettable adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's iconic anti-war epic Mother Courage and Her Children. Accenting the action with classic vaudeville routines, German comedians and a Hollywood screwball sensibility, this production presents the title character as the ultimate amoral survivor, schlepping her wares and her kids through the blood and carnage of Europe's religious wars so she can sell goods to soldiers. But her profits come at a deep personal cost. Jim Niesen directs this thought-provoking reinvention of a classic.


Queens Theatre: The Forward Festival of the Arts - May 13

Queens Theatre, 14 United Nations Avenue South in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Corona, Queens

Begins May 13. Closes May 22. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase $12 tickets to Full Radius Dance and $13.50 tickets to Omnium Circus.

Note: Proof of vaccination NOT required. Masks are mandatory.

Queens Theatre presents the inaugural Forward Festival of the Arts, which showcases the work of performing artists who are Deaf or disabled. The two-weekend event features performances by inclusive companies from around the country, including NYC's Omnium Circus, Denver, Colorado's Phamaly Theatre Company and Atlanta, Georgia's Full Radius Dance. All festival programming will include audio description, open captioning and ASL interpretation.


Soho Playhouse: Mr. Yunioshi - May 18

Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street between Sixth Avenue and Varick Street in Soho

Begins May 18. Closes May 29. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase $18 tickets.

Google yellowface and one of the first images you'll find is Mickey Rooney's disgraceful, bucktoothed turn as Mr. Yunioshi in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. While Rooney's over-the-top characterization is nauseating, writer-performer J. Elijah Cho delves into it instead of dismissing it in his comedic solo show, which comes to Soho Playhouse for a limited run after playing many a fringe festival. In this one-act, Cho explores whether there could have been a "right" way for Rooney to portray the character, and what compels actors to take on roles they absolutely should turn down. Considering the urgent calls for authentic casting, this production is particularly timely.


Metropolitan Playhouse: East Side Stories, Actually - May 19

The Connelly Theater, 220 East Fourth Street between Avenues A and B in the East Village

Begins May 19. Closes May 29. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase $11 tickets.

Founded in 1993, Metropolitan Playhouse is an Obie Award-winning theatre company dedicated to expanding the American theatre canon. While the troupe typically revitalizes forgotten gems, East Side Stories, Actually is a collection of shorts set in the East Village as part of the theatre's 17th annual New Works series. Christian Missonak's Cooperative focuses on a housing rights activist in an Alphabet City squat-turned-co-op. Tom Lavagnino's I'm Waiting for My Man centers on pals waiting for Lou Reed to sign their vinyl at Venus Records on St. Marks Place. Lenin in Love on the Lower East Side is Jonathon Ward's portrait of old lovers reconnecting. In Bara Swain's The Plan, a daughter must place her mother in assisted living. And Additional Information Regarding the Odd Events in the First Avenue L Station on Tuesday Night is Natalina Lopez's one-act about a teen who spends a lot of time in her father's subway flower shop. See the historic neighborhood from multiple fresh perspectives!


Super Secret Arts: David and Katie Get Re-Married - May 26

400 Third Avenue near 6th Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn

Begins May 26. Closes June 18.

What happens when the worst couple in the world decides to give love another go? That's the premise of this dark comedy of remarriage. From the team behind the laugh-out-loud satires Gary Busey's One-Man Hamlet and Trump Lear, David and Katie Get Re-Married is directed by Michole Biancosino and stars comic powerhouses David Carl and Katie Hartman, who even croon a few cringey tunes. Sometimes it's best to laugh at the lunacy of love. Note that the show is performed at the brand-new Brooklyn performance space Super Secret Arts, which is offering an intriguing subscription model though you can also buy individual tickets for this production.


the cell: Nightclub Cantata - Through May 22

the cell, 38 West 23rd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues in Chelsea

Running through May 22. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase $15 tickets.

Note: Proof of a booster shot required.

The late, great theatrical multihyphenate Elizabeth Swados conceived of Nightclub Cantata, a joyous song cycle of world poetry that premiered at The Village Gate in 1977. Director-choreographer Bill Castellino takes the reins for this 45th anniversary staging at the cell, as a diverse cast gives voice to words by Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, Nâzim Hikmet, Nancy Larrick, Muriel Rukeyser and Delmore Schwartz, all set to music by Swados. An uplifting and life-affirming experience not seen in NYC in more than 40 years.


Clubbed Thumb SummerWorks: California - May 20

The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street between Avenues A and B in the East Village

Begins May 20. Closes May 31.

After a two-year hiatus, one of the hottest theatre festivals in town, Clubbed Thumb SummerWorks, resumes this month! Like its 24 previous editions (which incubated hits such as What the Constitution Means to Me and Men on Boats), this year's lineup features three exciting new works by emerging playwrights and the first debuts this month: Trish Harnetiaux's California, about a family road trip that breaks reality. Will Davis, who helmed Men on Boats, directs.


Andrew Block is an Ovation Award-winning director who hails from New Orleans and now works primarily with the vibrant NYC independent theatre community. He also serves as TDF's Manager of Off & Off-Off Broadway Services.

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Top image: Aerialists from Circus Omnium, which is performing as part of Queens Theatre's The Forward Festival of the Arts. Photo courtesy of Circus Omnium.

Andrew Block is an Ovation Award-winning director who hails from New Orleans and now works primarily with the vibrant NYC independent theatre community. He also serves as TDF's Manager of Off & Off-Off Broadway Services.