Seat Filler: Best New York Theater of 2013
10. The Vaudevillians
RuPaul's Drag Race winner Jinkx Monsoon and composer-musician Major Scales definitely didn't fuck it up as coke-fueled Kitty Witless and her closeted husband Dr. Dan Von Dandy. Recently thawed after being buried in an avalanche, these 1920s vaudeville stars reclaimed their original hits — "Toxic," "I Will Survive," etc. — subsequently stolen after their death. As polished as a Lee press-on, the high-concept cabaret act established the endearing duo as the new Kiki and Herb.
Laurie Beechman Theatre, closed.
Out playwright Chad Beguelin's refreshing, absorbing post-DOMA comedy starred Paul Anthony Stewart and Queer as Folk's Randy Harrison as a somewhat stereotypical gay couple with a seemingly idyllic life. Their financially lopsided relationship is tested when a "poor white Christmas trash" relative and her "van-schooled" daughter drop in unannounced on their picturesque Sag Harbor home, forcing the hubbies to question having a child and the true meaning of family.
Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters, closed.
8. Far From Heaven
Before reuniting on The Bridges of Madison County, Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale were a match made in heaven in this sparkling, sophisticated musical adaptation of the 2002 Todd Haynes melodrama about 1950s suburban repression. Grey Gardens composers Scott Frankel and Michael Korie gifted the radiant O'Hara, as housewife Cathy Whitaker, with a lush, lyrical score, and out bookwriter Richard Greenberg did right by Pasquale as Frank, her closeted, tormented husband.
Playwrights Horizons, closed.
7. A Kid Like Jake
As a conflicted mother, Carla Gugino illuminated Daniel Pearle's intelligent, engrossing play about frazzled parents struggling to make sense of their gender-nonconformist four-year-old son — cleverly unseen onstage — who engages in "gender variant play" rooted in a passion for Disney princesses. While applying to Manhattan's exclusive private schools, tensions flare after a trusted preschool advisor suggests they highlight rather than hide what makes Jake special.
LCT3's Claire Tow Theater, closed.
6. Choir Boy
In addition to lingering locker-room scenes, glorious gospel music elevated out playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney's praiseworthy drama set in a prestigious boarding school for black men. Jeremy Pope dazzled as Pharus, a passionate, provocative choir leader whose limp-wristed loquaciousness invites homophobic taunts and puts him at odds with his headmaster. OMGlee! Recalling Tea and Sympathy, Pharus finds tenderness — and the occasional titillation — from his hot roomie.
Manhattan Theatre Club's Studio at Stage II, closed.
5. Kinky Boots
Based on the 2005 film about Lola, a drag queen who saves a shoe factory, Harvey Fierstein's crowd-pleasing musical isn't just an excuse for flashy drag numbers — although, choreographed by Broadway Bares creator Jerry Mitchell, they are sickening. According to composer-lyricist Cyndi Lauper, "Sex Is in the Heel," but this show's strength is in its heart; as Lola, who's dealing with a bully and daddy issues, out star Billy Porter is actually most affecting without makeup.
Hirschfeld Theatre, open-ended.
4. The Nance
Helmed by prolific out director Jack O’Brien, this was out playwright Douglas Carter Beane’s most satisfying play since The Little Dog Laughed. Nathan Lane was born to play Chauncey Miles, a famous burlesque "nance," an effeminate stock character, in '30s New York, where the mayor's begun cracking down on "deviants." His one-liners were priceless, but the breakout star here was Jonny Orsini as Chauncey's younger lover — and not just because of his memorable nude scene.
Lyceum Theatre, closed.
3. The Glass Menagerie
At once stylized and naturalistic, John Tiffany's minimalist direction breathes new urgency into the autobiographical Tennessee Williams masterpiece about a fading Southern belle's smothering commitment to her children. With out legend Cherry Jones as Amanda Wingfield and out hunk Zachary Quinto shattering expectations as moody narrator Tom, who undoubtedly escapes to seedy gay bars, the memory play shimmers as brightly and clearly as sister Laura's lil' glass unicorn.
Booth Theatre, through February 23.
2. Buyer & Cellar
What if the fabled private shopping mall in Barbara Streisand's Malibu basement had an employee? Ugly Betty's Michael Urie owns the stage as struggling gay actor Alex, the diva's lowliest minion, in this respectful but rib-tickling one-man wonder by out playwright Jonathan Tolins. Also subtly inhabiting Babs herself — like buttah! — and various other characters like Alex's bitter boyfriend, Urie proves that you don't need a chorus of drag queens to have a gay ol' time at the theater.
Barrow Street Theatre, open-ended.
1. Fun Home
“My dad and I both grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town. And he was gay. And I was gay. And he killed himself. And I became a lesbian cartoonist.” So begins composer Jeanine Tesori and playwright Lisa Kron's fresh and uncommonly moving musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel's acclaimed graphic memoir. Portrayed by three fine actors at three ages, Alison draws us in as she considers the enigma that was her father, played by Michael Cerveris at his best. Color us impressed.
Public Theater, through January 12.
And Away We Go
An ambitious, passionate love letter to theater, Terrence McNally's century- and continent-hopping new play can be a frantic mess. It's also exhilarating and poignant, particularly when a gay actor succumbs to AIDS before he can perform his dream roles.
Pearl Theatre, through December 21.
In Lincoln Center Theater’s thrilling premiere of Bruce Norris's biting domestic drama, Jeff Goldblum's philandering pol gets a violent comeuppance from a trans female bar patron, fiercely played by Camp's Robin De Jesús in an indelible cameo.
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, through January 5.
Out actor-playwright J. Stephen Brantley's intimate, insightful drama overlaps the action of a NGO in Malawi with that of a Manhattan florist's storeroom, where sparks and sharp dialogue crackle between a sassy gay New Yorker and a homophobic Malawian student.
West End Theatre, closed.
A sensitive but straight high school freshman is bullied mercilessly because of his two moms in Mallery Avidon's timely and troubling play, which featured the genius David Greenspan as bizarro-fantasy versions of Dan Savage and Fred Phelps.
HERE Arts Center, closed.
Women or Nothing
Out director David Cromer somehow grounded the soapy premise of Ethan Coen's dark comedy for Atlantic Theater Company: A successful, cultured lesbian couple trick a handsome colleague into getting one of them, a "gold-star lesbian," pregnant.
Linda Gross Theater, closed.