Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for October 2011
Driven by Our Town-y narration, James Lantz’s intimate and touching drama stars Bryan Fitzgerald and Will Roland as teens who swap spit in an old bus parked in the middle of an explosive conflict between a megachurch and a gas station. Though often steered off-course, it’s an admirable critique of faith-fueled small-town homophobia. The Bus next travels to Topeka, Kan., in hopes of imparting its message to Westboro Baptist Church.
59E59 Theatres, through October 30.
A self-referential memory play that recalls The Glass Menagerie, late gay playwright Lanford Wilson's autobiographical 1970 drama is enjoying a quietly powerful revival courtesy of Keen Company. Keith Nobbs, who memorably played gay in Stupid Kids and Four, is immensely engaging as Alan, a sweet but aimless 17-year-old who gets attacked for his perceived homosexuality after moving in with his estranged father’s new family.
The Clurman Theatre, through October 22.
Both n-words and f-words fly like daggers in MCC Theater’s piercing premiere of Jeff Talbott’s scintillating drama, which stars Glee’s Jonathan Groff as a gay playwright who has written a surefire hit about a black family in the projects. True Blood’s Rutina Wesley plays the actress hired as his stand-in when the play’s accepted into a prestigious festival, and American Pie’s Eddie Kaye Thomas provides comic relief as his devoted boyfriend.
Lucille Lortel Theatre, through October 22.
Play It Cool
Conceived by Larry Dean Harris, this plodding but promising musical outs the denizens of Mary’s Hideaway, an underground gay club in 1953 Hollywood: butch owner Mary, her bombshell lover, a slimy MGM exec, a cute guy fresh off the bus, and a closeted cop. Overlook the clichéd dialogue and savor the score, a blend of scatty jazz and theatrical panache best served by the great Sally Mayes as tough-talking, men’s suit-loving Mary.
The Acorn Theatre, closed October 9.
Out playwright Troy Deutsch ambitiously plumbs the aftermath of a friend’s suicide in his captivating but frustratingly unfocused two-hander about small-town angst. Deutsch and Samantha Soule rise through the muck as guilty survivors James and Iris, high school seniors who spend a “crapping pathetic Friday night” dredging up the past and dreaming of escape. James has a girlfriend, but his true attractions soon become violently apparent.
IRT Theatre, closed October 2.
In a dizzyingly surreal solo show directed by Nathan Schwartz, dynamic gay performer Anthony Johnston comes out as a wizard before emigrating from Canada to New York City. Dedicated to his late grandma and sister, this frank exploration of sexual self-discovery isn’t for everyone, but it’s never boring — and only partly because Johnston is a total cutie who spends much of the evening leaping around in little more than a diaper.
Under St. Marks, closed October 8.
Arias with a Twist
Downtown drag artiste and Zumanity alum Joey Arias returns with a pimped-out version of his fantastical 2008 multimedia extravaganza directed and designed by famed gay puppeteer Basil Twist. Whether probed by aliens, seduced by devils during a ’shroom-induced hallucination, or possessed by Billie Holiday while fronting a jazz band of marionettes, Arias reaffirms his status as incomparable entertainer and infamous oddity.
Abrons Arts Center’s Henry Street Settlement, through October 16.
At turns uplifting and devastating, this outstanding folk-bluegrass musical by Julianne Wick and Dan Collins — based on Kate Davis’s 2001 documentary — celebrates a “chosen family” of transgender friends in rural Georgia who debate whether gender is in the head or between the legs. Annette O’Toole is a revelation as Robert Eads, a trans man denied care for ovarian cancer, and Jeff McCarthy stuns as his trans girlfriend Lola Cola.
CAP21 Black Box Theatre, through October 29.
After a hit run at the Kennedy Center, a near-flawless revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s 1971 masterpiece sparkles on Broadway like fine champagne. As old frenemies stuck in a soapy love quadrangle, peerless divas Bernadette Peters and Jan Maxwell headline this reunion for aging chorines, but the show’s secret weapon is Elaine Paige, who entertains maybe-gay cater waiters with her impassioned “I'm Still Here.”
Marquis Theatre, through January 22.
The death of a patriarch propels this swift, satisfying dysfunctional family comedy about human connection by gay playwright Nicky Silver. Armed with priceless reactions and line readings, Linda Lavin milks every possible laugh from Rita, an unappreciated mother of two emotionally damaged grown children. Michael Esper, who recently played a gay escort in iHo, is a standout as Rita’s gay son, a loner obsessed with his hunky neighbor.
Vineyard Theatre, through November 11.
Motherhood Out Loud
More than a dozen playwrights contribute 19 parental monologues and sketches for this amusing albeit largely familiar Primary Stages production. In out sitcom writer Marco Pennette’s snappy “If We’re Using a Surrogate, How Come I’m the One with Morning Sickness,” Trevor Project cofounder James Lecesne plays a distressed gay dad-to-be. In Michelle Lowe’s moving “Queen Esther,” Randy Graff supports her cross-dressing son.
59E59 Theaters, through October 29.
Raft of the Medusa
Named for the 1819 Théodore Géricault painting of shipwreck survivors clinging to a raft, Joe Pintauro's provocative 1991 play gets an intense if uneven revival — newly revised by the playwright — as part of Barefoot Theatre Company’s STRIPP3D Festival. Peering in on a support group for people with AIDS, it may just be the most hopeless and heavy-handed of AIDS-themed dramas, but it’s essential viewing for fans of the genre.
Cherry Lane Theatre, through October 22.