Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for July 2011
Inspired by the true story of Harvard’s 1920 “secret court” formed to expel homosexual students after one student’s suicide, this sharp and stylish melodrama — conceived and directed by Tony Speciale and created with Plastic Theatre members — is a triumphant memorial. Distracting theatrics aside, it’s a glossier, gutsier take on the subject than last summer’s Veritas, aided by indelibly effete turns from Nick Westrate and Max Jenkins.
Classic Stage Company, through July 24.
Silence! The Musical
This unauthorized parody of The Silence of the Lambs stars Jenn Harris, who does a dead-on Jodie Foster as Clarice; Brent Barrett, who croons with killer charm as Dr. Lecter; Steven Bienskie as penis-tucking transsexual Buffalo Bill; and, poking fun at Ms. Foster, Deidre Goodwin as a lesbian love interest. But the snappy book by [title of show]’s Hunter Bell outshines a so-so score that tries to shock with tunes like “If I Could Smell Her Cunt.”
Theatre 80, through August 13.
The Emperor’s New Codpiece
Drag playwright Linda Simpson puts a campy, delightfully anachronistic spin on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic, setting the fable in medieval times at the Castle Club, a “nightspot for fops.” Directed by Theatre Askew’s Tim Cusack, the show also stars Simpson as a diet ale–drinking drag queen who aims to sabotage the go-go dancers by convincing them to don invisible codpieces, but Patrick Johnson steals the show as a horny peasant girl.
The Laurie Beechman Theatre, through July 15.
Cirque du Soleil: Zarkana
There’s something about a powerless magician looking for his lost love in the latest acrobatic spectacle from Cirque du Soleil — a company that employs many limber gay performers across the globe — but this sliver of a plot is just an excuse to showcase eye-popping visuals and heart-stopping stunts that fill Radio City’s cavernous space with beauty and wonder. Look out for the portly funambulists and the lady who floor-juggles.
Radio City Music Hall, through October 8.
Sex Lives of Our Parents
In Michael Mitnick’s whimsical and unfocused comedy, a young woman, rattled by her upcoming wedding, inexplicably begins having visions of very intimate scenes from her secretive mother's past, which includes a surprising same-sex affair. Lisa Emery is simply superb as the mom, but those odd flashbacks aren’t nearly as interesting as the present, which is anchored by Outsourced’s Ben Rappaport as the goofily handsome groom-to-be.
Second Stage Theatre's McGinn/Cazale Theatre, closed July 3.
Next Thing You Know
A watered-down Rent with sitcom-ready Real World rejects, this pleasantly angsty pop musical by Ryan Cunningham and Joshua Salzman explores the quarter-life crises of four 20-somethings, including Waverly, a bartender who originally moved to New York to become an actress. Lauren Blackman is a standout as Waverly’s lesbian friend, Lisa, an aspiring singer-songwriter who wants to move to California because she can’t find a girlfriend.
CAP21 Black Box Theatre, closed June 25.
The Devil's Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith
Thanks to brassy powerhouse Miche Braden, “Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith is alive and swell in this bio musical. Boozing at a Memphis buffet flat on the last night of her life in 1937, Smith shares painful anecdotes and belts songs from her 1920s heyday like “St. Louis Blues” and “I Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl.” Angelo Parra’s script also tackles her unapologetic bisexuality, which led to her losing custody of her adopted son.
St. Luke's Theatre, open-ended.
The Greenwich Village Follies
A lightweight but charmingly slapdash homage to the Greenwich Village Follies of the 1920s, this educational variety show by Andrew Frank and Doug Silver celebrates the Manhattan hood through quirky vignettes and clever musical numbers about the area’s colorful history and famous artistic residents. Highlights include a raunchy ditty about the abundance of porn shops and a joyously bedraggled tribute to the Stonewall riots of 1969.
Manhattan Theatre Source, open-ended.
The Eyes of Babylon
Jeff Key’s engaging solo show about his stint overseas as a U.S. Marine culminates with his resignation from the military and his criticism of its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on CNN. Because the monologue is based on Key’s journals, it’s a bit flowery — “the smell of me wafts up and in to fuel my coming dreams,” he waxes poetic of “self-love making” — but you won’t find a smarter account of the Iraq war by an openly gay serviceman.
59E59 Theatres, closed July 3.
In Michael Weller's soapy companion piece to his 2008 drama Fifty Words,Next Fall’s Cotter Smith and Nip/Tuck’s Joely Richardson star as an aspiring politician and his bipolar wife, Midwesterners who really go off the rails when their teenage sons — one of whom experiments with his male roomie at boarding school — have an accident. Despite Richardson’s fierce commitment, it’s far too dull for a play about a woman on the verge.
Lucille Lortel Theatre, closed July 3.
In Amy Herzog’s quietly moving drama, a familial Harold and Maude for the modern age, a 21-year-old hippie finds comfort at his 91-year-old grandmother’s New York apartment after the death of his best buddy on their cross-country bike trip. As the feisty yet fading widow with a Communist past, Mary Louise Wilson of Grey Gardens fame is worth any long journey. The hit play reopens next year at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater.
LCT3 at the Duke on 42nd Street, closed July 9.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
How did Broadway’s most troubled musical become coherent? What gave its villains, led by Patrick Page’s evil-queeny Green Goblin, a purpose? After bad press and highly publicized injuries, the webbed wonder welcomed three heroic gay additions to the creative team as Julie Taymor left the production: Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, director Philip William McKinley, and choreographer Chase Brock came to save the day!
Foxwoods Theatre, open-ended.