Features Published 26 August 2019

Exeunt NYC Recommends: September 2019

From British imports on Broadway to experimental art downtown, Exeunt NYC recommends it all and more this September.

Exeunt Staff

As the fall theater season begins in earnest, an onslaught of new productions have our critics humming. From British imports on Broadway to experimental art downtown, Exeunt NYC recommends it all and more this September.

Eileen Atkins and Jonathan Pryce in The Height of the Storm. (Photo: Hugo Glendinning)

BROADWAY

The Height of the Storm (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre) (September 10-November 17): I have a weird obsession with two things that will be featured in Florian Zeller’s new play: senior romance and The Crown. Manhattan Theatre Club’s The Height of the Storm, a London transfer, will star two-time Olivier and Tony winner Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones) and three-time Olivier Award winner Eileen Atkins (The Crown). Pryce and Atkins play a couple, André and Madeleine, married happily for 50 years before they are suddenly hit with complications. Who even stays married and happy that long anymore? I don’t mind watching a play explaining that. (Ayanna Prescod)

The Rose Tattoo (American Airlines Theatre) (September 19–December 8): It is great to see a little more attention gradually being given to Tennessee Williams’ lesser-known works. Those who think of Williams only as the playwright of either fluttering or fiery Southern belles in works where the primary appeal lies largely in a kind of misplaced nostalgia (thanks in no small part to the censored versions portrayed in film) are not getting the full picture of his work, which is profoundly poetic, but also dark, disturbing, and often (in his later works) highly experimental. Without knowing much about the production, except that the excellent Marisa Tomei is playing the lead, I’m interested to see this obscure gem on stage. (Alison Walls)

Linda Vista (Hayes Theatre) (September 19-November 10): Any Tracy Letts play is a cause for celebration in my book. Even the ones that I feel don’t fully work, like the recent Mary Page Marlowe, reveal both a unique depth of character and facets of the playwright’s skill previously unknown to me. Linda Vista, which Second Stage is presenting on Broadway, is doubly worthwhile because its cast includes a cadre of fine Chicago actors too rarely seen in New York. Among them are Ian Barford, Sally Murphy, Jim True-Frost, Caroline Neff (so wonderful in Lisa d’Amour’s Airline Highway a few seasons ago), and Troy West. (Cameron Kelsall)

Conrad Ricamora (foreground) and company of Soft Power. (Photo: Craig Schwartz)

OFF-BROADWAY

Soft Power (Public Theater) (September 24-November 3): I follow the works of playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly and Yellow Face) due to their fascinating interrogation of Asian identity. For a fraught Trumpian era, his new musical Soft Power questions the love of American democracy with an interesting exploration of East-West relations. Jeanine Tesori’s (Fun Home and Caroline, or Change) musical involvement also amplifies my interest. (Caroline Cao)

Wives (Playwrights Horizons) (August 23-October 6): File this under “making up for lost time”–I missed two chances at seeing playwright Jaclyn Backhaus’s Men in Boats last year, and I won’t make that mistake again. (See also, Slave Play.) Sweeping cross-historical epic meets comedy meets feminist revision of the past–what’s not to like? Director Margot Bordelon has also been behind some of the past season’s most interesting plays, and I look forward to seeing her work as well. (Loren Noveck)

Little Shop of Horrors (Westside Theatre Upstairs) (September 17-November 24): To date, my only live experience with Little Shop of Horrors has been the ghastly 2003 Broadway production. Audrey II had nothing on the cavernous Virginia Theatre (now the August Wilson), which swallowed up the intimate charm of the show. So I’m thrilled by the prospect of its return Off-Broadway, where the magic of started nearly 40 years ago, and with a strong cast anchored by Jonathan Groff and Tammy Blanchard. (Cameron Kelsall)

Scotland, Pa. (Roundabout/Laura Pels) (September 14-December 8). I don’t know much about this production or its creative team, but I am intrigued. It is the extremely rare case of a musical adaptation of a film that has the potential to be great. The show is a loose adaptation of Macbeth: Scotland is a backwater Pennsylvania town, and the castle is the town’s prize fast food joint where the Macbeths flip burgers: but maybe one day they can run the joint! The 2001 movie (featuring Christopher Walken and Andy Dick and nobody else anybody has heard of) is kitschy and dark and goofy and far from brilliant, but it’s a ton of fun. As long as this production doesn’t take itself too seriously, there is potential that a few song and dance numbers will fit right into this strange world. (Patrick Maley)

Antigone (Park Avenue Armory) (September 25-October 6) Greek tragedy, Japanese Noh, and Indonesian shadow puppetry meet at the Park Avenue Armory Drill Hall. Japanese director Satoshi Miyagi reinterprets Sophocles’ play on an epic scale, with 29 actors and the vast hall flooded with water. The story of Antigone defying her uncle to bury her brother with dignity resonates through the ages, and this promises to be a memorable interpretation. (Juliet Hindell)

Looking at You (HERE Arts Center) (September 6-21): When’s the last time you saw a new American chamber opera that could describe itself as Edward Snowden meets Casablanca? If your answer is anywhere between not recently and never, make your way to HERE and witness this “techno noir” opera with music by Kamala Sankaram, libretto by Rob Handel, and direction by Kristin Marting. Bring your smart phone at your own risk–they will mine your data. You do have to give permission though, at least at the workshop version I saw last year. (Dan O’Neil)

Wild Bore (NYU Skirball) (September 27-28): Three performers sit down to publicly perform theater reviews, some of which they have personally received. They may talk out of their assholes at one point or for the whole show. That was at least the form of this show which I saw as a WIP a couple of years ago. Adrienne Truscott, Zoe Coombs Marr, and Ursula Martinez come from three different countries (the US, Australia, and the UK, respectively), but it turns out sexist, reductionist reviews are universal. So are reviews written in a dismissive fashion that fail to engage with the work on its own terms. It’s a show that proved hard for critics to review when it played in the UK lest it all just sound like sour grapes. But I’m keen to see it in its finished form. (Nicole Serratore)

Bad News: i was there… (NYU Skirball) (September 6-8): As a student at Bard College, I saw JoAnne Akalaitis’ site-specific production of Fefu and her Friends, which led audience members from one room of our theater complex to the next. It did not  always work, but nine years later, moments and images of Akalaitis’ stark, difficult staging still stick in my mind. A legend of the avant-garde theater scene, Akalaitis’ work is always worth your time, even when it fails. Bad News: i was there… will lead audiences through the Skirball complex in a similar manner, and is made up of ‘Messenger speeches’ imparting bad news. The invaluable Rocco Sisto is among the cast. (Joey Sims)


Exeunt Staff is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine