Features Published 23 October 2018

Exeunt NYC Recommends: November

Timely and topical plays debut on and off Broadway this November. A bit farther uptown, a Puccini masterpiece returns to the Metropolitan Opera for its hundredth anniversary. Our staff recommend all that and more!

Exeunt Staff

Exciting Broadway premieres, a diverse array of Off-Broadway debuts, and grand opera at the Met: our contributors recommend it all this month!

Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale in American Son. (Photo: Sophy Holland)

BROADWAY

American Son (Booth Theatre) (October 6-January 27): When I first saw Christopher Demos-Brown’s American Son at George Street Playhouse in New Jersey, it struck me as that rarest of creatures: a timely, topical play that resists didacticism and doesn’t feel opportunistically slapped together. After making the regional rounds the last few seasons, it arrives on Broadway, with Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale appearing under Kenny Leon’s direction. The ripped-from-the-headlines plot, which concerns a racially motivated police-involved incident in Florida, remains sadly relevant. (Cameron Kelsall)

Network (Belasco Theatre) (November 10-March 17): Paddy Chayefsky’s script for the 1976 film Network is considered one of the greatest screenplays ever written. The dialogue burns and the tension mounts to an almost unbearable peak. It’s also incredibly funny. Lee Hall’s stage adaptation makes its Broadway debut in a production directed by the Belgian bae of the avant-garde, Ivo van Hove, this month. Chayefsky’s script is an indictment of sensationalist news broadcasts; it looks at how far a television company will go for ratings and the repercussions on the human lives around it. It’s always timely, because stuff like that never goes away, but I’m expecting an added potency in our unfortunate present. (Lane Williamson)

OFF-BROADWAY

The Thanksgiving Play (Playwrights Horizons) (October 12-November 25): Indigenous playwright Larissa FastHorse writes plays with a dark sense of humor. I saw a reading of her work What Would Crazy Horse Do? several years ago (involving a coalition of the KKK and an Indigenous tribe) and it was biting and great. I’m mad no one has produced it yet in New York. But I will soothe myself with a chance to see another one of her plays. This new work is about a group of white teaching artists who try to make a pageant about Thanksgiving while being “woke” about the cultural issues involved. This should be uncomfortable fun. (Nicole Serratore)

The cast of The Thanksgiving Play at Playwrights Horizons. (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The Hard Problem (Lincoln Center Theater/Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater) (October 25-January 6): Most of my favorite playwrights these days are of my generation or younger, but Tom Stoppard is still the one whose work I just can’t seem to quit. Even his interesting failures have more theatrical inventiveness, sheer information density, and structural innovation than a dozen brilliant well-made plays. It’s been ten years since New York saw a new Stoppard play, and although the intersection of neuroscience and manipulation of the financial markets seems like territory for investigative journalism more than theater, I have faith. (Loren Noveck)

Thom Pain (based on nothing) (Signature Theatre) (October 23-December 2): The first time I saw Will Eno’s breakout one-person play (with some light audience participation) was in Minneapolis on a date. There were six people in the audience. It was still a transcendent experience, as I was immediately seduced by the tautness of Eno’s language, sending me to a bookstore to buy the play and to post various pithy one-liners from it onto my status on Facebook. This was before the Newsfeed feature, so I doubt anyone noticed. It’s safe to say that this production, featuring Michael C. Hall under Oliver Butler’s direction, will draw more of a crowd. I can’t wait. (Dan O’Neil)

Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine (Signature Theatre) (November 19-December 30): Lynn Nottage begins her residency with a revival of this play from 2004. The Signature Residency 1 program examines the oeuvre of one playwright in depth through productions of their earlier work and world premieres of new plays. Nottage has two plays scheduled this season (and more to come in the next, I’d imagine). Both are lesser-produced works than her Pulitzer Prize-winners Ruined and Sweat, and it’s exciting to see the earlier work that established Nottage as the playwright she is today. (Lane Williamson)

Dead Are My People (NYTW Next Door) (November 4 -11):  Noor Theatre focuses on developing work by artists of Middle Eastern descent. Their first full-length commission is getting an airing via New York Theatre Workshop’s Next Door series. It’s a show about a Syrian man in the Jim Crow South–a topic I’ve never seen on stage before. I’m curious about this play’s intersection of immigration, segregation, and America. (Nicole Serratore)

Slave Play (New York Theatre Workshop) (November 19-December 30): I had a chance to interview Jeremy O. Harris about a year ago regarding a one-act play that was showing in a festival. I was immediately taken by his intellectual rigor, style, and theatrical brazenness. One of those playwrights who has a buzz around them even before a major production has ever taken place, Harris is here paired with director Robert O’Hara, who seems the perfect foil. (Dan O’Neil)

Wild Goose Dreams (Public Theater) (October 30-December 16): I heard great things about Hansol Jung’s Wild Goose Dreams during its brief run at the Public Studio last year, prior to a successful run at La Jolla Playhouse in California. The Public brings the play back to Astor Place for a full production, and I don’t intend to miss it this time. The title refers to “goose fathers”, a term for South Korean men whose families have emigrated to North America; Jung’s play explores the conflagration of loneliness and abandonment in the digital age. Leigh Silverman directs a cast that includes, among others, the always wonderful Francis Jue. (Cameron Kelsall)

The White Album (BAM Harvey) (November 28-December 1): Lars Jan is an LA-based artist whose work straddles visual and performing arts. His show, The Institute of Memory, at Under the Radar in 2016 found a fascinating way of looking at his own personal past via the exploration of his late father’s medical records and surveillance records. Here, he works with his real-life partner Mia Barron in visualizing Joan Didion’s famous essay “The White Album” for the stage. The essay focuses on the tumult of the 1960s, and Jan hopes to connect those events of 50 years ago to activism on social justice today. He also plans to interrogate the whiteness of “The White Album”. I talked with Jan this summer about the show (humblebrag) and I think this is the kind of project that defies description. To see it is to feel it. So I plan to. (Nicole Serratore)

A scene from Suor Angelica, part of Il Trittico at the Met. (Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

MUSIC


Il Trittico
 (The Metropolitan Opera) (November 23 – December 15): The Metropolitan Opera revives Jack O’Brien’s 2007 production of Puccini’s triple bill: the rarely performed Il Tabarro, the tragic Suor Angelica, and popular comedy Gianni Schicchi. I confess to having very personal reasons for looking forward to this one–the “boy” in Suor Angelica was my first ever stage role, but it is one of the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful operas I know. O’Brien’s production should inject some contemporary energy into these classics and the cast is impressive, including the legendary Plácido Domingo in the title role of Gianni Schicchi. (Alison Walls)

Savage Winter (BAM Fisher) (November 7-10): If you know Wilhelm Müller’s Die Winterreise (The Winter Journey) at all, chances are it’s through Franz Schubert’s plaintive 1827 setting for lieder singer and piano. Well, get ready for a shot in the arm, as composer Douglas J. Cuomo re-orchestrates the melancholy cycle for an electronica trio (guitar, keyboards, trumpet) and sets the scene in a trash-strewn motel room. I imagine old Franz must be turning in his grave, but I can’t wait to hear how this contemporary musical language gives a new voice to Müller’s poetry. (Cameron Kelsall)


Exeunt Staff is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine