Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for June 2011
Adapted by out director Moisés Kaufman with narration that recalls Tom from The Glass Menagerie, an unproduced 1967 Tennessee Williams screenplay comes hauntingly to life courtesy of the New Group and Tectonic Theater Project. You can’t take your eyes off hunky out actor Claybourne Elder, which makes him ideal to play Ollie, a boxer who becomes a gay-for-pay hustler and death row inmate after losing an arm in a car accident.
The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row, through July 2.
With Xanadu and High School Musical as muses, Transport Group scores with this site-specific production, a bouncy hip-pop confection by partners Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn that slam-dunks an update of the 411 B.C. Aristophanes comedy onto a real basketball court. Patti Murin channels Elle Woods as Lyssie, who dares her gal pals to withhold sex until their boyfriends win a game, but two teammates score with each other.
The Gym at Judson Memorial Church, through June 19.
Nine’s Mario Fratti has assembled an evening of four weak but well-meaning short plays, three of which tackle gay scenarios that favor surprise over insight: In “Actors,” a father tries to convince his daughter that her nipple-ringed boyfriend isn’t as gay as he seems on stage; in "A.I.D.S.," a dying man and his lover contemplate a doctor’s heartless bribe; and in "Dina and Alba," female lovers pull out a gun when an ex-boyfriend reenters their lives.
Theater for the New City, through June 19.
Following Angels in America and iHo, Signature's Tony Kushner season ends with out director Michael Mayer’s dreamy revival of Kushner’s charming 1989 adaptation of Pierre Corneille's 1636 comedy L'Illusion Comique. In this heady ode to theatricality, Lois Smith stars as a cave-dwelling magician who conjures visions for an old man of the son he banished, and Peter Bartlett adds to his flamboyant repertoire as a hilarious fop.
Signature Theater Company at the Peter Norton Space, through July 17.
By the Way, Meet Vera Stark
This bittersweet satirical comedy by Lynn Nottage, who won a Pulitzer for Ruined, peers behind the screens of racial stereotypes in 1930s Hollywood. Sanaa Lathan stuns as Vera, a black maid and budding actress whose unusual relationship with her boss, a former child star played by Stephanie J. Block, is debated — were they lovers? — many years later by a panel of film scholars that includes Karen Olivo as a militant lesbian slam poet.
Second Stage Theatre, through June 12.
Sex on the Beach
Written and performed by Roy Arias on a set that looks like a Chevys Fresh Mex, this spirited three-character monologue makes a spicy if insignificant meal of the Caribbean sex trade with a sassy Puerto Rican transvestite, a proud female escort in Cuba, and a bombastic male hustler in the Dominican Republic. Some of the sloppy Spanglish can be hard to understand, so catch one of the Spanish-language matinees if you habla Español.
Roy Arias Studios & Theaters, through July 30.
Through a Glass Darkly
In Atlantic Theater Company’s taut staging of Jenny Worton's moody adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's 1961 film, Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan triumphs as Karin, a young schizophrenic who unravels before our eyes like beautiful ribbon on a dreadful gift while vacationing on a Swedish island with her ineffectual family. Newcomer Ben Rosenfield also shines as the “gentle and kind” Max, Karin’s sexually confused 16-year-old brother.
New York Theatre Workshop, through July 3.
Cradle and All
Daniel Goldfarb deftly explores commitment and parenthood in this perfectly precious new comedy, which juxtaposes two Brooklyn couples: one sleep-training their screaming baby and their hipper neighbors still debating whether or not to start a family. Most impressively, Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller transform between acts to play both couples, but Keller’s a standout as a metrosexual antiques dealer who fears the loss of freedom.
Manhattan Theatre Club – Stage I, through June 19.
The Best Is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman
Free of any Sondheim on Sondheim–style insight, this pleasingly upbeat revue honors late composer Cy Coleman, who wrote Broadway musicals including Sweet Charity and The Will Rogers Follies. Despite too many unknown songs by lyricist David Zippel, who devised and directed the show, it’s a real treat to hear Lillias White revisit The Life’s “The Oldest Profession,” a whore’s lament about male and female tricks, with Billy Stritch on piano.
59E59 Theatres, through July 3.
The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World
Once upon a time, New Hampshire’s Austin Wiggin forced his three awkward daughters to form a rock band called the Shaggs, whose dissonant 1969 album became an ’80s cult classic. This odd footnote in rock history now gets a wonderfully quirky, pitch-perfect musical treatment from Joy Gregory, Gunnar Madsen, and John Langs. Out actor and recording artist Kevin Cahoon is scene-stealer in multiple roles that include a DJ and producer.
Playwrights Horizons, through July 3.
Made into a 2005 film starring Michael Urie, Brian Sloan’s unsettling but entertaining 2003 drama enjoyed an intimate off-Broadway premiere with a limited engagement in the Americas Off-Broadway festival. Among a faultless young cast sharply directed by Andrew Volkoff, Nick Lewis was a revelation as Eric, a gay photographer who must interview roommates for his SoHo apartment after placing an ad September 10, 2001.
59E59 Theatres, closed June 5.
Scheduled to run through July 24, Willard Beckham’s shamelessly corny musical comedy went bust early. Just don’t blame Will & Grace’s Leslie Jordan or drag darling Varla Jean Merman, who were a campy hoot as a car salesman and a country diva trying steal a song from a Nashville newbie played by out hottie Kyle Dean Massey, who, alongside out actress Jenn Colella as a wigmaker, almost stole the show with endless talent and charm.
Little Shubert Theatre, closed May 29.