In the Next Room’s Sarah Ruhl further explored sexuality at Classic Stage Company in her bewitching adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel, a fantastical meditation on the fluidity of gender identity, in which a young English nobleman inexplicably wakes up as a woman. Taking a cue from the 1993 film starring Tilda Swinton and Quentin Crisp, director Rebecca Taichman cast fine androgyne Francesca Faridany as Orlando and quirky out actor David Greenspan — one of three men in a gender-bending Greek chorus — as Queen Elizabeth. Ruhl wisely let Woolf do the talking, opting for a descriptive third-person narrative in lieu of new dialogue — a children’s-story-theater style befitting a tale full of wit and wonder.
9. La Cage aux Folles
The show belongs to flawless Tony-winner Douglas Hodge as the aging diva Zaza, but it’s easier than I imagined to forget Kelsey Grammer’s Republican leanings and enjoy his pleasingly sung performance as Georges, a St. Tropez drag club owner, in this vibrant new Broadway revival of Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein’s somewhat creaky classic. Aiming for rough-edged realism over flash, this smartly streamlined production, which transferred to the Longacre Theatre from London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, only allows for six Cagelles — plus out Camp star Robin de Jesús as the maid — and considering how things drag when the action flies the coop, it’s clear that these ripped dancers rule the roost.
8. Dusk Rings a Bell
Stephen Belber, who cocreated The Laramie Project, revisited gay hate crime in Atlantic Theater Company’s Dusk Rings a Bell. Private Practice’s Kate Walsh starred as Molly, a verbose CNN exec returning to her old family summer home on the Delaware shore. There she reconnects with Ray, a townie with whom she shared her first kiss, and learns, to her horror, that he spent 10 years in prison for his part in the murder of a gay vacationer. One of his pals threw the punches and hurled the gay insults, but Ray “didn’t do enough to stop it.” Paul Sparks was quietly heartbreaking as Ray, a simple, soft-spoken man riddled with guilt and haunted by a premonition of his own death at the hands of a group of kids calling him “faggot.”