Seat Filler: What's Gay Off-Broadway
Antony and Cleopatra
An explorer of the black gay experience in Choir Boy and The Brother/Sister Plays, out playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney directs and edits Shakespeare's culture-clashing tragedy, relocating it to colonial Haiti and Napoleonic France. The ambitious and alluring change of scenery doesn't always pay off, but Jonathan Cake and Joaquina Kalukango spark as the sensual, spirited lovers. Chivas Michael also makes voodoo magic as a sassy singing eunuch and gender-ambiguous soothsayer.
Public Theater, through March 23.
Out playwright Ken Urban's haunting psychological thriller stars an understated Thomas Jay Ryan (The Temperamentals) as Philip, a grieving, guilt-ridden widower. The "afterlife messenger" he's hired seems fishy from the start, but will Philip look past the penis when Jordan Geiger shows up as an enigmatic young man who convincingly claims to be his dead wife? Spoiler alert: Buyer & Cellar's Stephen Brackett rises to the challenge of directing this season's most graphic sex scene.
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, through March 16.
Embracing the hell of "tickling that never hurts enough," Linda Ames Key helms this heavenly revival of Jean-Paul Sartre's 1944 existentialist classic in which three dead strangers find themselves trapped together in a minimalist-chic hotel room, here envisioned as buried deep beneath a landfill. Jolly Abraham is devilishly good as Inez, a manipulative lesbian postal worker tortured by the cold disinterest of Estelle, a beautiful and flirty socialite played by Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris.
The Pearl Theatre, through March 30.
Ode to Joy
Can love weather addiction and other illnesses? Out playwright Craig Lucas of Prelude to a Kiss and Longtime Companion fame exorcises some personal demons in this unsettling yet ultimately hopeful new drama, which he also directed. Law & Order: Criminal Intent's luminous Kathryn Erbe is compelling as our antiheroine, Adele, a bisexual painter wobbling through unhealthy relationships with two lovers, Bill (Arliss Howard) and the literally heartsick Mala (Roxanna Hope).
Cherry Lane Theatre, through April 19.
In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play)'s Sarah Ruhl blurs the line between life and art, reality and make-believe, in her light but lyrical backstage comedy about ex-lovers — Nurse Jackie's Dominic Fumusa and dazzling Friends alum Jessica Hecht — cast as romantic leads in two laughably lousy plays, including an obscure '30s melodrama. A big smooch for Jack in a Box's rib-tickling Michael Cyril Creighton as an awkward gay understudy worried the audience won't buy him as straight.
Playwrights Horizons, through April 6.
Read last month’s theater picks here.