Features FestivalsNYC Published 27 November 2017

Exeunt NYC Recommends: December

Starting a new monthly feature, the ExeuntNYC writers make their top picks for December.

Exeunt Staff

Ivo Van Hove’s The Fountainhead in BAM’s Next Wave. Photo: Jan Versweyvel

This New York Bear has a new look and new feature: monthly recommendations and top picks from our NYC writers.   The theater season does not slow down even as winter arrives. Here’s what we are looking forward to in December.

Meteor Shower (Booth Theatre) (November 1-January 21): A Steve Martin play starring Amy Schumer, Keegan-Michael Key, Laura Benanti, and Jeremy Shamos? Count me in. At first glance, the “two couples having dinner” storyline sounds conventional, but I’m curious to find out how the space rocks will shake things up.  (Jordan Teicher)

Pride and Prejudice (Primary Stages/Cherry Lane Theater) (November 7-January 6): Kate Hamill’s Sense and Sensibility won raves (as did her Vanity Fair) and this new adaptation of an Austen favorite, developed with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Company, is apparently just as good – winning over Austen die-hards (that would be me!) and newbies alike. Wit, irony, and romance may be just what is needed right now, and possibly more original than other productions scrambling for “relevance.” (Alison Walls)

The Dead 1904 (The American Irish Historical Society) (November 18-January 7): Irish Rep’s immersive dinner theatre returns after a successful run last year. It’s the ultimate holiday splurge and there are limited tickets so jump quickly. Adapted from a James Joyce story it’s said to be transporting.  (Juliet Hindell)

The Glass Guignol (Mabou Mines Theater at 122CC) (November 23-December 23): Dating back to the early days of downtown experimental theater and drawing on the traditions of Grotowski, the Berliner Ensemble, and the Living Theater, Mabou Mines is one of the few companies from that era to still survive and thrive. Their puppet work is always remarkable, and here MacArthur-winning “genius” Basil Twist is building their puppets. Founder Lee Breuer directs this piece drawn from the works of Tennessee Williams and Mary Shelley, two writers who may seem on the surface to have nothing to do with each other, but my brain’s already drawing connections between the two. (Loren Noveck)

The Fountainhead (BAM) (November 28-December 2): Belgian avant-garde director Ivo van Hove is a love-him-or-hate-him kind of theater artist, with an utterly distinct style. Even though I often fall in the latter camp, I think the brutalist psychological landscape of Ayn Rand, and The Fountainhead’s themes of power, architecture, and individualism, are perfectly suited to his aesthetic. (Loren Noveck)

Counting Sheep (3-Legged Dog) (November 28-December 17): A hit at EdFringe in 2016 this immersive show set within the Ukrainian protests in Maidan Square in Kiev brings the audience into political action. With music from folk-punk band The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, the show forces the audience to contemplate their role in revolution. An apt moment for Americans to do so.  (Nicole Serratore)

The Children (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre) (November 28February 4): If you’re looking to escape the anxiety of our current nuclear brinkmanship, avoid Lucy Kirkwood’s post-apocalyptic drama about three retired nuclear engineers who reunite in a remote cottage on the British coast after a meltdown at a power station. But if you can stomach it, this London transplant starring the original Royal Court Theatre cast should make for a rewarding ride.  (Jordan Teicher)

8980: Book ofTravelers (BAM Harvey Theatre) (November 30-December 2): Singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane returns to the BAM Next Wave following 2014’s The Ambassador. Soon after the 2016 election, Kahane disconnected from his phone and the internet and took a two-week train trip across the country. This song cycle, directed by Daniel Fish, documents that trip. (Lane Williamson)

The Pirates of Penzance (NYU Skirball) (November 29-December 10): This family-friendly rendition of Gilbert & Sullivan’s farce from renowned Chicago troupe The Hypocrites is being staged as a beach party. Beyond modern Major Generals, there will be beach balls, swimming pools, and a functioning tiki bar for beverages during the show.  I anticipate a playful approach and solid laughs from this always innovative company. (Nicole Serratore)

SpongeBob SquarePants (Palace Theatre on Broadway) (Open-ended run, Opens December 4): Visionary director Tina Landau brings the beloved cartoon character to the stage with a grown-up sensibility and a mix-tape score by artists like Sara Bareilles and Panic! At the Disco. With set and costume design by David Zinn, expect a distinctive look for Bikini Bottom’s move to Broadway. (Lane Williamson)

Art, Humanity & Action: We Persist (Knitting Factory – Brooklyn) (December 5): A stellar, all-female line-up of some of NYC’s best storytellers gather for a night of uplifting, inspiring, funny personal stories and songs about persistence. Plus, speakers and stories from local, women-led organizations about ways to get involved and elect more women to office in 2018. 100% of ticket proceeds will benefit Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. (Joe Charnitski)

Handel’s Messiah (St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue) (December 5 and 7): In the spirit of the season, St Thomas always does outstanding performances of the Messiah. Their choir is first class and the music will put you in a thoroughly Yuletide mood. (Juliet Hindell)

A Room In India (Park Avenue Armory) (December 5 – 20): French experimental theatre doyenne Ariane Mnouchkine brings her Théâtre du Soleil collective to the cavernous Armory for a 3 ½ hour epic about multiculturalism. Queasy, watch-through-your-fingers cultural “borrowing”? Possibly. Ravishing theatricality? Bien sûr. (Curtis Russell)

Théâtre du Soleil’s A Room in India, at the Park Avenue Armory. Photo: Michele Laurent

Farinelli and the King (Belasco) (December 5-March 25): Regular Shakespeare’s Globe composer Claire van Kampen’s based-on-a-true-story playwriting debut garnered strong, if not overwhelmingly ecstatic reviews when it premiered at the Globe’s intimate Sam Wanamaker Playhouse two years ago and then transferred to the West End. Any chance to spend time with her husband, star and living legend Mark Rylance, is a treat though, especially now that he’s spending more and more time in Hollywood. (Curtis Russell)

Disney Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas In Concert (Barclays Center) (December 6 – 7): Legendary American Composer, singer and songwriter, Danny Elfman will reprise his role as Jack Skellington in a very special screening, with the music performed live by a full orchestra and choir, of this timeless Disney holiday classic. Elfman will be joined by other original cast members, including Catherine O’Hara (Sally) and Ken Page (Oogie Boogie), who will all sing live during the movie. (Ayanna Prescod)

Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation (The Performing Garage) (December 7-17):  The Wooster Group revives its 2014 production created around a 1976 LP by the Sisters of the Shaker Community, an offshoot of the Quakers. The WG might be an icon of tech-savvy theater modernism, the show reveals their affinity with the Shakers’ spare style, uncompromising discipline and ecstatic transcendentalism. Maybe the purest expression of spirituality on a NYC stage this holiday season. (Molly Grogan)

Hanjo (Japan Society) (December 7-9): The Japan Society’s NOH-NOW series continues with SITI Company’s interpretation of Yukio Mishima’s (1925-1970) modern noh play, Hanjo, in which the provocateur playwright drew on a 14th century story of undying love to explore a much bleaker tale of loneliness and betrayal. The production, which has been in the works since 2007, under the direction of Leon Ingulsrud, finally gets a full staging in which the actors rotate roles to explore gender and identity while contemporizing Noh’s stage language with a minimalist aesthetic.  (Molly Grogan)

Akiko Aizawa in SITI Company’s Hanjo, at the Japan Society. Photo: Janouke Goosen

Bangsokol: A Requiem for Cambodia (BAM Gilman Opera House) (December 15-16): Composer Him Sophy and director Rithy Panh reckon with memories of the Cambodian genocide in this hybrid work, which blends music, film, and theater to remember their home country’s dead. The performance incorporates traditional Cambodian music, Buddhist chanting, and eclectic instrumentation to bring a painful and powerful history to life. (Cameron Kelsall)

Mankind (Playwrights Horizons) (December 15-January 28): The endlessly inventive Robert O’Hara returns to Playwrights Horizons with an acerbic allegory that features pregnant men, the extinction of women, and other potentially distressing elements of an uncertain future. Mankind asks what we have to do in order to survive in a world “where man’s capacity to fuck everything up soars to new heights.” If O’Hara’s previous work as a playwright, Bootycandy, is anything to go by Mankind should offer some bold, trenchant, and pleasingly over the top comedy.  O’Hara directs a cast that includes Andre De Shields, Anson Mount, and Bobby Moreno. (Cameron Kelsall, Alison Walls)

Live From Lincoln Center Presents Leslie Odom Jr. (Lincoln Center, The Appel Room) (December 19): Former Hamilton star, Leslie Odom Jr. is headed to Lincoln Center for an intimate evening of soultry jazz for the holidays. Odom, in addition to being a Tony Award-winning Broadway star is an acclaimed jazz vocalist, shaping tender melodic lines with R&B accents, an actor’s ear for a lyric, and impeccable elegance. (Ayanna Prescod)

Exeunt Staff is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine