Glenda Jackson returned to Broadway last season after a three-decade absence. Luckily, she isn’t making us wait on her next appearance. That and more are among our critics’ March recommendations.
Glenda Jackson returns to Broadway in the title role of King Lear.
King Lear (Cort Theatre) (February 28-July 7): Glenda Jackson doing King Lear is reason enough, but with Sam Gold directing, it’s one of my most anticipated theatrical events of the year. Gold’s Othello at New York Theatre Workshop was everything I want from a contemporary Shakespeare production: it illuminated the play using modern devices, the characters felt alive, and the staging and design were continuously breathtaking. Jackson is sharing the stage with a virtually unparalleled roster of actors — Jayne Houdyshell, Matthew Maher, Elizabeth Marvel, Pedro Pascal, John Douglas Thompson, and Ruth Wilson to name only some of them. On top of all that, there’s an original score by Philip Glass and a set design by Miriam Buether. Everything about it sounds like it will be incredible. (Lane Williamson)
Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus (Booth Theatre) (March 5-August 4): Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare’s first tragedies and perhaps his goriest play. It’s a story of enormous violence both national and personal, set at a time of civil war. So if one were going to suggest the appropriate actors for its sequel, one might not first leap to three of the funniest stage actors alive: Nathan Lane, Kristine Nielsen, and Andrea Martin. (One might also not predict that it would be called Gary.) Then again, it’s a Taylor Mac play, which implies that one should continue to expect the unexpected. MacArthur genius Mac is better known for performance-art-type extravaganzas such as A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, but judy is starting to do more “traditional” playwriting, and I’m here for it. Not to mention director George C. Wolfe. (Loren Noveck)
Hatef**k (WP Theater) (March 3-31): I sent a friend to a reading of this a while back and she came out raving about how great it was. It’s a two-hander about a literature professor and a novelist who fight over culture, identity, and stereotypes — and yet also end up in bed. I suspect this play by Rehana Lew Mirza will offer no easy answers and provide a twisty road through repulsion and attraction. With a starry cast (Kavi Ladnier and Sendhil Ramamurthy from TV’s Heroes) and it being one of the plays on the Kilroy’s List, for me it’s a must-see in March. (Nicole Serratore)
Simon Russell Beale, Ben Miles, and Adam Godley in The Lehman Trilogy. (Photo: Mark Douet)
The Lehman Trilogy (Park Avenue Armory) (March 22-April 20): After a highly acclaimed run at London’s National Theatre, The Lehman Trilogy makes its U.S. debut at Park Avenue Armory, which has quickly become one of New York’s most important cultural venues. I lived through the 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing recession. Why the hell would anyone want to see a play about the firm whose collapse almost single-handedly triggered it? I can think of a few reasons: Simon Russell Beale. Sam Mendes. Ben Miles. Adam Godley. Unlike the events dramatized, buying tickets here seems like a sound investment. (Cameron Kelsall)
Five Easy Pieces
(NYU Skirball) (March 7-9): I’ve never seen Milo Rau’s work. But this Swiss director’s piece about Belgian pedophile and child murderer Marc Dutroux has been touring for a while and it’s gained quite a reputation. Starring actual children, Rau tells the story of Dutroux, his victims, and their families — but also of larger questions of Belgian colonialism, government corruption, and what is real. The children are guided on stage to perform as if they are rehearsing for a film. We are meant to experience horror at hearing these young voices in terrifying scenarios, watch re-creations, play, and art-making and interrogate what performance is, and the ethics of all of this. No doubt it won’t be an easy show to watch, but it doesn’t sound like the kind of show intending to shock for shock’s sake. Instead, it’s meant to shake us from our complacency and consider things we don’t always want to confront but perhaps we need to. (Nicole Serratore)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge brings Fleabag to SoHo Playhouse. (Photo: Tristram Kenton)
(Soho Playhouse) (February 27-April 14): Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s award-winning comedic play, directed by her longtime collaborator Vicky Jones, was the play any of my friends in London could not stop raving about. I’ve since became a major fan of the TV series it inspired and would love to see the play live in NYC at the Soho Playhouse. The eponymous central character is crass, emotionally unstable, and self-obsessed, but somehow hugely likable as she negotiates her way through the various messes of her life, many of them self-induced. If the show and my friends’ reactions are anything to go on, it will be dark, bracingly honest, and always hilarious. (Alison Walls)
Anything That Gives Off Light comes to New York after a successful engagement in Edinburgh. (Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic)
Anything That Gives Off Light
(Joe’s Pub) (March 14-30): The TEAM and the National Theatre of Scotland collaborate on this music-driven piece that premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival. It’s a work that explores the idea of identity, culture, nation, borders, and national mythology. I described the show when I saw it
in 2016 as “tinged with a bit of sadness, frustration, and dreams of grandeur tempered by failures.” I found the magical adventure form of the show where we zip between Scotland and Appalachia “a fitting way to explore [something] as complex a morass as identity. Nothing is fixed. Ideas morph with time and so too must our storytelling.” With songs by the Bengsons, it is a foot-stomping journey where the characters go beyond that surface layer of who they are and start peeling back their own sense of where they come from and what home is in a smart, probing, and unique way. I’ve already bought my ticket to see it again. (Nicole Serratore)
The New Group and the Vineyard Theatre co-produce Jeremy O. Harris’s “Daddy”.
(The New Group/The Vineyard Theatre) (February 12-March 31): I confess, I pick this partially as penance for missing the boat on Jeremy O. Harris’s first production this season, Slave Play.
This sounds like it should be right up my alley in all the same ways: intense relationships; fraught explorations of identity, race, and power; wildly inventive not-quite-realist dramaturgy; and a young playwright whose work I suspect we’ll see lots more of in the years to come. Plus Alan Cumming, who’s been doing more cabaret, film, and TV of late, but whose remarkable presence as a stage actor should not be overlooked. (Loren Noveck)