Features NYCNYC Features Published 29 May 2018

Exeunt NYC Recommends: June

Don’t let the summer heat stop you from seeing some plays our critics recommend.

Exeunt Staff

Stephen Rea in Cyprus Avenue (Photo: Ros Kavanagh)

The Eleventh Hour! (Town Stages) (May 11-June 27) The Eleventh Hour!, a new rock musical, promises to merge stories of science and broken hearts all into a fast-paced, irreverent show. I’m always intrigued with how theater artists choose to deal with science (this one delves into black holes) and when you pepper in plot lines that involves embittered relationships and mole people, I’m sold. I’m also very curious to see the brand new space – Town Stages – put to the test of a show as large as this one. Town Stages’ business model is to hold upscale events (weddings, etc.) so as to make their rentals to artists very affordable. It sells itself as the newest downtown venue for innovative art. (Charlotte Arnoux)

Everyone’s Fine with Virginia Woolf (Abrons Art Center) (June 1-24): After a not so successful foray into Shakespeare this fall, Elevator Repair Service returns to its strength: reinventing 20th century classics. After The Great Gatsby (as Gatz), The Sound and the Fury, and The Select (The Sun Also Rises), ERS takes on Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, with its notorious warring couple. The tweaked title suggests the downtown company will turn an ironic hot poker into George and Martha’s incendiary relationship, with Vin Knight and Annie McNamara in the lead roles. (Molly Grogan)

Cyprus Avenue (Public Theater) (June 2-July 29): A Northern Irish friend and his wife encouraged me to read David Ireland’s play Cyprus Avenue after discussing some of the flaws we all saw in the Jez Butterworth play The Ferryman (set in Northern Ireland about the Troubles and coming to Broadway this fall). Cyprus Avenue was one of the most scorchingly funny and terrifying plays I’ve ever read on the page. Looking at the deep hatred and prejudice that has for generations kept Northern Ireland in turmoil, I can only imagine how much more electrifying it will be on stage in this production starring Stephen Rea. Be warned the play contains offensive racial epithets. There may be parallels to be drawn to our own country where encouraging and weaponizing prejudice currently seems so prevalent.  (Nicole Serratore)

Jon Michael Hill in Chicago production of Pass Over (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

Pass Over (LCT3) (June 2-July 15): Fast-rising playwright Antoinette Nwandu makes her Lincoln Center Theater debut with Pass Over, which premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre last June. I saw that production directed by Danya Taymor and was knocked out by Nwandu’s humor, insight, and forthrightness in presenting difficult subject matter. Pass Over functions as a modern-day Waiting for Godot, influenced by and infused with the ongoing conversations about police brutality and racial profiling. It’s an uncomfortable and absolutely necessary play. Steppenwolf star Jon Michael Hill returns for this staging (again by Taymor), along with Namir Smallwood and Gabriel Ebert. (Cameron Kelsall)

Sugar in Our Wounds (MTC) (June 5-July 8): Sometimes you hear about a playwright before seeing any of their work. Playwright Donja R. Love’s name just kept bubbling up and into my consciousness whether it was his readings at The Lark or winning a playwriting award for Sugar in Our Wounds. That Love is tackling a subject we never see, queer black love and romance during the Civil War, made this play all the more interesting to me. But the sugar-on-top came when I heard Sheldon Best was cast in it. Best is one of the most riveting stage actors around.  He has an on-stage charisma and brightness that just makes you sit up and take notice. (Nicole Serratore)

Awesome Grotto! (Abrons Art Center) (June 11, 18, 24): Tei Blow and Sean McElroy call themselves a “musical priesthood” under the moniker Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble, and the duo have been ceremoniously rising through the ranks of the Off-Off-Broadway scene with lush, psychedelic reflections on love and desire.  Using the Meg Ryan/Nora Ephron romantic comedies to reflect on “the spiritual potential of digital connectivity”, ROKE proposes an immersive sound and video installation complete with a “Healing Sound Bath.” Trippy. (Molly Grogan)

Gregg Mozgala in Teenage Dick

Teenage Dick (Public Theater/Ma-Yi Theater Company) (June 12-July 15): After seeing Martyna Majok’s Pulitzer-winning Cost of Living at Manhattan Theatre Club last summer, I quickly added Gregg Mozgala to my list of actors I’d drop everything to see. He takes the lead in Mike Lew’s Teenage Dick, a riff on Richard III set in a contemporary American high school. Mozgala, who has cerebral palsy, plays a sixteen-year-old student who sets out to overcome his bullying by becoming student body president. Presented at the Public Theater, the play is a co-production of Ma-Yi Theater Company, of which Lew is the resident playwright. (Cameron Kelsall)

Fire in Dreamland (Public Theater) (June 19-August 5): Rinne Groff’s plays are consistently ambitious–intellectually challenging, theatrically inventive, and rich with history–and I’ll take the problematic-but-ambitious over the polished-but-dull any day. I’m excited to see her tackle the nexus of history, politics, and urban policy that Superstorm Sandy became, especially with actors as good as Enver Gjokaj & Rebecca Naomi Jones. (Loren Noveck)

Mary Page Marlowe (2nd Stage) (June 19-August 12): I still have nightmares about Tracy Letts’s Bug, one of the most visceral, disturbing pieces of theater I can remember. Mary Page Marlowe, about eleven moments in an “ordinary” woman’s life, promises to be tonally quite different, but can’t help but include Letts’s signature emotional intensity. Matching his eighteen-actor piece with director Lila Neugebauer, who’s already proven herself an expert at getting nuanced individual characters in ensemble pieces, and a great cast that includes Tatiana Maslany, Grace Gummer, and Kellie Overbey, promises something special. (Loren Noveck)

Exeunt Staff is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine