Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for March 2011
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Adapted from the 1994 film about a trans woman and two drag queens busing across the Australian outback, this infectious jukebox musical will wipe the puss off any face. The relationship between Will Swenson’s Tick/Mitzi and his son has beefed up on the road to Broadway, but it never detracts from the shameless flamboyance of Tony Sheldon’s Bernadette, Nick Adams as Adam/Felicia, and a birdcage of hot boys in terrific costumes.
Palace Theatre, open-ended.
The Book of Mormon
As smartly crafted as it is crass, this show from South Park’s creators about mismatched Mormon missionaries in Uganda almost lives up to the buzz that heralds it as a musical messiah. Making a gold plate — Mormon joke! — out of a modest meal, Broadway Impact cofounder Rory O’Malley is glorious as Elder McKinley, a closeted missionary who leads a pink-sequined chorus in a showstopper about urge-squelching, “Turn It Off.”
Eugene O’Neill Theatre, open-ended.
Transport Group of last year’s Boys in the Band revival returns with a more challenging, less accessible site-specific flashback: Michael John LaChiusa’s century-spanning 1993 musical about sexual flings inspired by Schnitzler’s La Ronde. Bare-assed trysts include Bob Stillman as a closeted “Husband” and Blake Daniel as a “Young Thing” on the Titanic, followed by the ’70s seduction of the PYT by Jonathan Hammond’s “Writer.”
Transport Group at 52 Mercer St., through April 10.
Bring Us the Head of Your Daughter
The economically extremist troupe known as the Amoralists satirically spit on religious homophobes with writer-director Derek Ahonen’s bold cautionary tale — subtitled “a love story about lesbians and a cannibal ... told with dignity” — about an interracial lesbian couple terrorized when their runaway daughter is accused of a cannibalistic murder spree. The bloated script is promising, but the production’s uneven and miscast.
PS 122, through April 24.
Led by Michael Levinton, the Little Lord theater company, a self-described “rough and ready collective of shiksas, queers, and misinformed Jews,” joyously tackle the biblical Book of Esther with cheesy prom dresses, dollar-store props, and an interactive children’s theater style that schools with whiskey shots. I didn’t care about the Purim plot, so it’s a testament to the gender-bending troupe’s shabby-chic skills that I was tickled throughout.
Under St. Marks, closed April 2.
A Lonely Man’s Habit
Performed in rep as part of the See-Saw Solo Festival, Jeremy Lawrence’s one-man tribute to Tennessee Williams scrapes together journal entries, quips, and play excerpts to create a portrait of the aging playwright as he sneaks from a sleeping trick to scribble, read, and toy with his thoughts on, among other things, his lost loves. Lawrence is a good storyteller and a very impressive interpreter, but only hardcore Williams fans need attend.
The Cell, through April 16.
The Soldier Dreams
Enjoying a solid but ephemeral mounting by Theatre East, out Canadian playwright Daniel Macivor’s monologue-heavy 1997 play revolves around David, a gay man who lies dying in a coma. While his partner and family discuss homophobic jokes and their differing takes on David — did he quit smoking? — a “dream David” dances and relives an encounter with a handsome German student in the play’s most captivating scenes.
Lion Theatre, through April 9.
Dream of the Burning Boy
After the terrific Tigers Be Still, Roundabout Underground continues to impress its little finger on the pulse of contemporary youth culture with David West Read’s affecting new play about grief. Reed Birney stars as Larry, a high school English teacher haunted by dreams of Dane, the student who died of an aneurysm after their meeting. Did, as Dane’s sister suggests, Larry dote on Dane because he was in love with the teen? No, but close.
Black Box Theatre, through May 15.
Marie and Bruce
The New Group’s stylish revival of Wallace Shawn’s beautifully bitter 1979 play invites the audience to eavesdrop with delicious discomfort on the day that shrewish Marie — a reliably tragicomic Marisa Tomei — tries to divorce Bruce, whom she sees as irritating and useless. A dinner party includes a guest we learn is gay when Bruce shares his theory that “homosexuals have a special ability to defuse the anxieties of people in distress.”
The Acorn Theatre, through May 7.
I wasn’t a fan of John Leguizamo’s mambo-mouthed solo shows about the Colombian-born, Queens-bred performer’s crazy family and Latino stereotypes, but his new act refreshingly focuses on the gifted raconteur’s showbiz career, parting the Moulin Rouge curtain to share surprisingly candid anecdotes and spot-on impersonations of Hollywood heavyweights like Sean Penn, Baz Luhrmann, and his drag castmates from To Wong Foo.
Lyceum Theatre, through July 10.
One Night With Fanny Brice
In gay writer-director Chip Deffaa’s enjoyably educational one-woman musical, the engaging Kimberly Faye Greenberg channels legendary Ziegfeld Follies singer-comedian Fanny Brice. Backed by a tiny live band on signature ditties like “My Man” and “Second Hand Rose,” this friendly ghost knows about Barbra Streisand’s Funny Girl but shares juicy details the film overlooked — like her hanging out with artistic gays on Fire Island.
St. Luke’s Theatre, open-ended.
In MTC’s faultless staging of this new play by Rabbit Hole’s David Lindsay-Abaire, Frances McDormand mesmerizes as Margie, a Southie woman who reconnects with an old beau — The O.C.’s Tate Donovan — who moved on up from their blue-collar Boston hood. Estelle Parsons and Becky Ann Baker are riots as Margie’s pals, and a fine Patrick Carroll is Margie’s milquetoast ex-boss, whom everyone labels as gay for loving bingo.
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, through May 29.
The Other Place
After reviewing A Small Fire and Wings, I was done with plays in which a strong female deteriorates — until I saw this taut and terrifying new drama by Sharr White. Helmed by omnipresent out director Joe Mantello, MCC Theater’s mounting is a must for the fierce, fearless performance by Roseanne’s Laurie Metcalf as a guilt-ridden pharmaceutical rep who may be hallucinating her runaway daughter due to what she thinks is brain cancer.
Lucille Lortel Theatre, through May 1.
Peter and the Starcatcher
Based on a 2004 novel and starring cutie Adam Chanler-Berat, this imaginative Peter Pan origin story is magical and anachronistic — think Wicked meets Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson on a boat — but it’s exhaustingly frantic and full of groaners. Temperamentals star Arnie Burton dons drag as governess to Wendy’s mom Molly, but an uproariously fey Christian Borle steals the show as a mustachioed pirate who becomes Captain Hook.
New York Theatre Workshop, through April 17.
Grease 2’s Maxwell Caulfield is still a striking leading man, but it’s not enough to put the bloom on this stiff revival of the hit ’60s Broadway comedy — by How to Succeed cowriter Abe Burrows — about a rakish dentist who makes his attractive assistant pose as his wife to secure the affections of a much younger girlfriend. Skip it and Netflix the 1969 Goldie Hawn film version or even the looser Adam Sandler remake, Just Go With It.
Westside Theatre, through April 24.
With equal smarts and heart, this attractive but no-frills revival of Tom Stoppard’s intriguing 1993 masterpiece, which is set in an English country house in both the early 1800s and the present day, finds strange carnal beauty in the cerebral discussions of mathematical genius, literary criticism, and even landscape design with a winning cast that includes Raúl Esparza, Gossip Girl’s Margaret Colin, and an animated Billy Crudup.
Ethel Barrymore Theatre, through June 19.
That Championship Season
Jason Miller’s celebrated 1972 dramedy reunites a group of state-champion basketball teammates with their coach on the 20th anniversary of their triumph to reminisce, fight, and drink. I can’t champion this cigar-stale revival, but if you’re a big fan of its stars — Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Noth, Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, and Jason Patric, who happens to be the late playwright’s son — then you should score one of the hottest tickets in town.
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, through May 29.
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Yes, he’s pretty funny as the grizzled existentialist ghost of a tiger at the start of the Iraq invasion, but Robin Williams is a lot more Good Will Hunting than The Birdcage in Rajiv Joseph’s very adult play — a Pulitzer Prize finalist — about violence, greed, and the absurd horrors of war. And yes, it can all feel a little preachy and pretentious, but it’s a stellar production helmed with a sure, graceful hand by gay director Moisés Kaufman.
Richard Rodgers Theatre, through July 3.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
A decent singer, Harry Potter star and Trevor Project spokesman Daniel Radcliffe is disarmingly charming — and dances his cute little butt off — as corporate ladder-climber J. Pierrepont Finch in Rob Ashford’s crowd-pleasing revival. Christopher J. Hanke erases Charles Nelson Reilly’s effeminacy from rival Bud Frump, Broadway Bares fave Charlie Williams steams up the chorus, and Anderson Cooper’s voice makes for a suave narrator.
Al Hirschfeld Theatre, open-ended.
In lesbian playwright Bathsheba Doran’s lovely and novel new play, we see, primarily through their separate interactions with friends and extended family, the ups and downs of a struggling odd couple: Kristen Bush as Anna, a Texan poetry scholar, and Patch Darragh — the gayest Tom ever in Roundabout’s recent Glass Menagerie — as Sean, an Irish personal trainer. “It’s awful, isn’t it?,” says Anna. “Getting to know someone.”
Playwrights Horizons, through April 17.