Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for August 2011
The trend of Broadway shows reopening off-Broadway continues with Jonathan Larson’s rock musical masterpiece, which resets La Bohème in the AIDS-addled East Village. Reinvigorating the show with new visuals and an age-appropriate cast — you betta work, MJ Rodriguez as Angel — original director Michael Greif cements the action in 1991 and brings realism to what was bordering on caricature. Rentheads should be over the moon.
New World Stages, open-ended.
The Pretty Trap
Cause Célèbre’s New York premiere of Tennessee Williams's one-act precursor to The Glass Menagerie shows a softer, more sober side to the late playwright. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’s Katharine Houghton is a delicious Amanda in this little silver slipper of a play, which focuses — without Tom’s narration and gay angst — on the Wingfield family’s welcome of the gentleman caller, who is actually single and smitten with Laura!
The Acorn Theatre, through August 21.
The Judy Show – My Life as a Sitcom
I never miss Judy Gold’s stand-up, so believe me when I say that the lesbian comedian is at her best as she looks at her life through the lens of classic sitcoms from yesteryear. Written with Gold’s gay 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother collaborator Kate Moira Ryan, this multimedia musical comedy also chronicles Gold’s quest to get her own sitcom or reality show, a great gay pitch that was criminally declined by Logo and OWN.
DR2 Theatre, through October 22.
If you can survive the space-invading audience participation, there’s much to enjoy in this otherworldly musical for fans of Blue Man Group and Glee’s Dalton Academy Warblers. Serving Geisha-faced realness and perfect harmonies in the guise of aliens who must refuel their spaceship with musical energy, these Israeli YouTube sensations please the crowd with a cappella medleys of more than 70 hit songs from Queen to Celine.
Westside Theatre, open-ended.
Death Takes a Holiday
How can such a spirited plot — Mr. Death poses as a Russian prince to woo a girl and weekend with a family in Italy — yield such a dull musical? Based on a 1924 play that became a 1934 film, Roundabout’s attractive, exquisitely sung production isn’t done any favors by a forgettable score from Nine’s Maury Yeston, and sexy, charismatic costars Matt Cavenaugh and Max von Essen can’t help but outshine leading man Kevin Earley.
Laura Pels Theatre, through September 4.
All New People
In this uneven comedy by Zach Braff, who seems to steal more from Scrubs than from Garden State, a group of misfits interrupt the suicide attempt of a guilt-ridden bore —The Hangover’s Justin Bartha — at a summer beach house in the dead of winter. Only The Help’s Anna Camp, a luminous blonde best known for her roles in True Blood and Mad Men, manages to rise above her tedious material as an escort with a history of scabies.
Second Stage Theatre, through August 14.
Hot off the Broadway-bound Lysistrata Jones, Transport Group has another hit with an odd revival of Barry Conners’s 1925 drawing room comedy about a shy girl’s triumph over her dysfunctional family. The glorious catch is that out performer David Greenspan plays all seven roles with no superfluous theatrics and only the slightest wink. Producers should consider letting Mr. Greenspan reinterpret old dusty classics for all future revivals.
The Duke on 42nd Street, through August 13.
Generally performed as a double feature with The Patsy, David Greenspan’s self-penned solo piece is a poetic and challenging exploration of identity that straddles the line between imagination and reality. Inspired by a salacious backstory he created for the butler he played in the recent Broadway revival of the 1927 play The Royal Family, Greenspan also details “a homosexual milieu” populated by “lewd sailors and pansies.”
The Duke on 42nd Street, through August 13.
A slow summer season is an opportunity to revisit old favorites, and now’s the best time to take a chance on this super trouper — set to ABBA’s greatest hits — about a bride’s quest to find her dad. David Beach is a standout as gay candidate Harry, and a jaw-dropping Jordan Dean leads the cast of wet-suited cuties. The musical celebrates its 10th anniversary this fall with 10 live events. For info visit mammamianorthamerica.com.
Winter Garden Theatre, open-ended.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The course of true love never did run smooth, and it doesn’t run straight either in the Hive Theater Company’s immensely enjoyable mounting of Shakespeare’s comedy about star-crossed Athenian lovers. With wit and wicked imagination, artistic director Matthew A.J. Gregory challenges marriage inequality simply by casting a woman as Lysander and a man as Helena — not to mention the fairy drag queen Titania and drag king Oberon.
The Cell Theatre, closed July 31.
A Strange and Separate People
After the success of The Temperamentals, gay playwright Jon Marans may have bitten off more than he can nosh with this intriguing but insular drama. Jonathan Hammond and Tricia Paoluccio play an Orthodox Jewish couple who must reconcile their religious beliefs with their love and sexual desire when — guess who’s coming to Sabbath dinner! — Noah Weisberg’s newly Orthodox “discreet” gay doctor passes over their doorstep.
Theatre Row’s Studio Theatre, closed July 30.
In Manhattan Theatre Club’s clean, engrossing revival of Terrence McNally’s 1995 play, the chameleonic Tyne Daly of Cagney & Lacey fame seems to have been possessed by the bitchy, witty, and self-absorbed soul of legendary opera diva Maria Callas, seen here reflecting on her life and art while teaching a master class in the ’70s. As an unexpected treat, the selections sung by her students are powerful enough to raise goosebumps.
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, through September 4.