A recent trip to America’s drama capital confirmed two evergreen truths about New York theatre: There is always something good on; Theatre is cheaper here than anywhere else if you know how to look.
Here’s what I saw with a few recaps.
- JITNEY by August Wilson on Broadway (TDF) $45
- Signature Theatre – EVERYBODY by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (TDF) $36.50
- Second Stage – MAN FROM NEBRASKA by Tracy Letts (TDF) $32
- Labyrinth Theater – DOLPHINS AND SHARKS by James Anthony Tyler $34.50
- Signature Theatre – WAKEY, WAKEY by Will Eno (TDF) $36.50
- Irish Rep – CRACKSKULL ROW by Honor Molloy $52.50
- Mint Theater Company – YOURS UNFAITHFULLY By Miles Malleson (TDF) $33
- Atlantic Theater – THE PENITENT by David Mamet (TDF) $31.50
- Joe’s Pub – LET US ASCERTAIN YOU by The Civilians $15
- Roundabout Theatre – IF I FORGET by Steven Levenson (TDF) $40
- Theatre for a New Audience – THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH by Thornton Wilder (TDF) $32
- LCT3 – BULL IN A CHINA SHOP by Bryna Turner $35
- SIGNIFICANT OTHER by Joshua Harmon on Broadway (TDF) $43
- Barrow Street Theatre – SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET $85
- Playwrights Horizons – THE LIGHT YEARS by The Debate Society $56
- St. Ann’s Warehouse – THE TEMPEST $89
- Manhattan Theatre Club – LINDA by Penelope Skinner (TDF) $32.50
- MCC Theater – YEN by Ana Jordan (TDF) $32
Many, many good shows are going at fire sale prices at the TKTS booth right now. Not sure why. I was able to get most shows I was interested in for around $30-$40, which is a steal considering many are top notch Broadway offerings.
JITNEY, the last of August Wilson’s epic ten play cycle, is on Broadway at last. And it’s very strong stuff. Under Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s expert direction, the ensemble feels welded together. You could spend all day with these folks. It’s the kind of show that repays multiple viewings to soak in all the social contours and texture. And John Douglas Thompson is a volcanic force.
Prolific young playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is seemingly everywhere. And he’s writing for everybody. And now BJJ’s latest EVERYBODY is on at New York’s engine of new plays – Signature Theatre. Jacobs-Jenkins not only is NOT one of those playwrights who write more or less the same story over and over, his plays are so different from one another as to be unrecognizable as coming from the same author. Here he goes a bit meta. But the results are excellent and unexpected.
Over at Second Stage, Tracy Letts’s MAN FROM NEBRASKA is getting another viewing, with Reed Birney in the lead. Birney feels miscast here. As I thought over what actor would be perfect for this role, Tracy Letts himself comes to mind. The play has some interesting ingredients, but once our wandering protagonist starts taking up with wild bohemians in London, we verge on cliche. Might work better on the screen, which it feels to be written for.
THE PENITENT by David Mamet at the Atlantic is about as grim and joyless as a Mamet play can be. Something about a lawyer getting crushed by the world because of the crimes of a former patient. One imagines Mamet at his desk in Vermont, scowling at the world. Then he goes outside and slips on the ice. Yikes.
IF I FORGET by Steven Levenson (whose first play THE LANGUAGE OF TREES was developed at the Ashland New Plays Festival abut 10 years ago) is an excellent and vital exploration of a Jewish-American family and the legacy of the holocaust. I feel like I have been looking for this play a long, long time. At last here it is. Levenson is a skilled writer and he has given us a strong piece of dramatic work that probes much about Jewish identity in America today.
Penelope Skinner can write. Her play THE VILLAGE BIKE at MCC a few years ago came about as close to scaring a jaded New York theater audience as I think I have ever seen. I had to cover my eyes at one point. And LINDA, now on at Manhattan Theatre Club, shows she is no one hit wonder. At the end of this play my longtime New York theatre partner, who had seen many of the other shows of this visit with me, turned and said: “Finally!” Indeed. LINDA is a contemporary nightmare that explores what happens to a successful woman in the corporate and personal world. There’s a lot to take in here, and the rotating set moves us forward at high speed. LINDA would be a perfect play for a theatre like Third Rail.