Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for February 2012
Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon bravely commands the stage as a demanding poetry professor — conveniently well-versed in the mortality themes of John Donne's Holy Sonnets — diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer in Manhattan Theatre Club’s surprisingly funny, tastefully heart-tugging revival of out playwright Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize–winning 1995 masterpiece, which is as brief and precious as life itself.
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, through March 17.
Look Back in Anger
Brothers & Sisters star Matthew Rhys is electric as working-class idealist Jimmy in this streamlined revival of John Osborne’s 1956 “angry young man” drama about four people — including Angels in America’s hunky Adam Driver as Jimmy’s pal — who seduce and squabble in squalor. Sam Gold directs the tense action on the stage’s lip, an exhilaratingly literal interpretation of the tiny flat’s description as “a very narrow strip of plain hell.”
Roundabout at the Laura Pels Theatre, through April 8.
How I Learned to Drive
Twilight’s Elizabeth Reaser stars in the assured 15th anniversary revival of out playwright Paula Vogel’s darkly comic coming-of-age drama about a young girl whose alcoholic uncle molests her during their intimate driving lessons. Opposite the reliable Norbert Leo Butz as Uncle Peck, Reaser is touchingly understated as Li'l Bit, the Pulitzer Prize–winning memory play’s abused narrator, who can easily be interpreted as a lesbian.
Second Stage Theatre, through March 18.
The Ugly One
Popular German playwright Marius von Mayenburg’s 2007 black comedy is a surreal, zippy firecracker of a satire. Good-looking actor Alfredo Narciso stars as Lette, an ugly man who, upon discovering that he’s ugly, undergoes successful plastic surgery that inspires scores of other men to buy the exact same irresistibly handsome face. Steven Boyer is a standout as a lustful gay man who’s as attracted to Lette as Lette is to himself.
Soho Rep, through February 26.
Private Romeo’s Seth Numrich is a ticking time bomb as the eldest of three poor siblings sent by their unstable gun-toting mother into the snowy woods to dig a hole deep enough to bury their neglected baby brother. Unfortunately, despite the very impressive onstage digging and some devastatingly beautiful writing by Slipping’s Daniel Talbott, the thin plot quickly grows tiresome once the cat’s out of the bag that it’s not a cat in that bag.
Rattlestick Theater, through March 3.
Merrily We Roll Along
The legendary James Lapine directed a bittersweet and stirring City Center Encores! production of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s revised 1981 Broadway flop about the deteriorating friendship of three writers. The semistaged mounting’s success bodes well for a major revival of the cult favorite, which unfolds in reverse. The 2012 Encores! continues with Pipe Dream and Smash’s Megan Hilty in Gentleman Prefer Blondes.
New York City Center, closed February 19.
The New Group’s out artistic director, Scott Elliott, guides comic and liberal activist Janeane Garofalo in her solid stage debut as Diana, the abrasive matriarch of a Russian-Jewish immigrant family in Brooklyn, in Erika Sheffer's engaging if ultimately unsatisfying drama. Morgan Spector is quietly menacing as muscular Uncle Boris, who awakens sexual desire in his niece and ropes his nephew into a human-trafficking ring.
The Acorn Theatre, through March 24.
Inspired by the 2003 Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal at The New York Times, Gabe McKinley’s drama doubles as an ad for the paper’s enduring integrity. The Gay Ivy’s Kobi Libii is compelling and sympathetic as the plagiarist — here named Jay Bennett — who uses his minority status and Internet savvy to get ahead at the Gray Lady, but a play defined by deadlines and coked-up ambition could use a tighter edit and snappier staging.
Atlantic Theater Company at the Peter Norton Space, through March 11.
The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Forget all the hoopla surrounding director Diane Paulus’s ballsy reworking of George and Ira Gershwin’s groundbreaking folk opera about the love affair between cripple Porgy and jezebel Bess in 1930s Charleston. Powerfully and accessibly reimagined for a musical theater audience, it’s a thing of beauty, proving that quality always outweighs controversy — especially when Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis sing their hearts out.
Richard Rodgers Theatre, through September 30.
The Bald Soprano, Rhinoceros, and lesser-known works of absurdist playwright Eugene Ionesco get a vaudevillian twist in the York Theater’s strained revival of Robert Allan Ackerman and Mildred Kayden’s 1974 revue, which features mildly amusing skits and clowning. The game cast includes Leo Ash Evans, who plays a gender-bending cabaret singer in “Everyone Is Like Me,” a stale ditty suggested by Jack or The Submission.
Theatre at St. Peter’s, through February 26.
The phenomenal pair of Scott Shephard (Wooster Group’s Vieux Carré) and out Big Gay Sketch Show alum Colman Domingo (the GLAAD Award–winning A Boy and His Soul) elevate this chilling revival of Athol Fugard’s 1961 Beckettian drama about biracial brothers — one dark-skinned and one who can pass for white — who engage in dangerous games of pretend while sharing a tiny shack in apartheid-era South Africa.
The Pershing Square Signature Center, through March 11.
The Road to Mecca
Although Athol Fugard’s 1987 drama can be exhaustingly slow and talky, LGBT audiences will relate to the incomparable Rosemary Harris as Miss Helen, an elderly South African artist whose neighbors are threatened by her eccentric outsider spirit and controversial sculpture garden. Carla Gugino and Jim Dale provide essential sparks as Helen’s confidant and the conservative priest trying to move her into an old-age home.
American Airlines Theatre, through March 4.
Set during the 1979 opening of a floating disco-casino, this lovable spoof of ’70s disaster flicks like The Poseidon Adventure and Earthquake — written by gay comedy geniuses Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick — features cleverly situated and expertly sung Top 40 hits of the era. Out director-choreographer Denis Jones wrangles a huge cast of zany caricatures, which includes young dynamo Clark Oliver as boy and girl twin siblings.
The Triad, through February 26.
Homo the Musical
Created by B-movie filmmaker Lola Rock-N-Rolla with punk musician Gina Volpe and choreographer Aliane Baquerot, this outrageously campy rock musical recalls The Rocky Horror Show meets Pleasantville as fever-dreamed by John Waters. Downtown nightlife personalities like Michael Formika Jones add to the super-gay shenanigans that ensue when an alien from Planet Homo invades a Middle American suburb as a housewife.
The Wild Project, closed February 4.
Angelica Page, daughter of the great Geraldine Page, is resplendent as L.A. sophisticate Lily in Frank Strausser’s awkward, featherweight farce about a series of couples’ therapy sessions gone awry when an ex-boyfriend fills in for her absent fiancé. Best known as trans lesbian Zarf on All My Children and for queer roles in Broadway’s Taboo and The Goat, Jeffrey Carlson impressively plays against type as Lily’s wealthy rogue of an ex.
Cherry Lane Theatre, through February 25.