By Brandon Voss
Originally published on Advocate.com September 14 2011 11:20 AM ET
Out playwright J. Stephen Brantley puts a nostalgic New York spin on the in-yer-face theater style with his tense, electric drama — developed under the guidance of the great Craig Lucas — starring Brian Miskell as an adorably awkward closet case who gets a jolt of excitement and empowerment when a coke-addled gal pal drops by his parents’ house on New Year’s Eve of 1983 with a heat-packing sociopath and an aggressive bisexual Brit.
Under St. Marks, through September 17.
Reviving her piercingly insightful, oddly moving, and indelibly messy 2003 cabaret act to honor the 10th anniversary of 9/11, provocative performance artist Karen Finley loosely channels Liza Minnelli, a symbol of both resilience and New York itself. Don’t overthink Finley’s passionate ramblings; just order a stiff cocktail and commiserate with her, drag artiste Chris Tanner, pianist Lance Cruce, and a rotating roster of Liza impersonators.
Laurie Beechman Theatre, through September 17.
Olive and the Bitter Herbs
Charles Busch’s hilariously absurd comedy starred Marcia Jean Kurtz as Olive, a grumpy Jewish actress best known for some sausage commercials in the ’80s. The zinger-packed Primary Stages production also featured out Frasier alum Dan Butler and Married With Children’s David Garrison as Olive’s neighbors, a quarrelsome gay couple who used to sleep with the friendly ghost — a Phyllis Diller drag impersonator! — in Olive’s mirror.
59E59 Theaters, closed September 4.
Hero: The Musical
Commissioned for the 100th anniversary of the death of Korean freedom fighter An Chung-gun, this Korean sensation made its American debut for a brief English-supertitled engagement at Lincoln Center. Lush with soldiers, geishas, songs about dumplings, and elaborate scenery including a life-size train, this eye-popping agitprop drama is clearly, zealously inspired by Broadway spectacles like Evita, West Side Story, and Miss Saigon.
David H. Koch Theater, closed September 3.
Tricks the Devil Taught Me
Tony Georges made an inauspicious off-Broadway debut with his boozy, Southern-fried family melodrama — a first draft of August: Osage County if reimagined by Del Shores — about a fractious Texan couple whose child is doomed to repeat their mistakes. Sordid Lives star Beth Grant seared as the foul-mouthed matriarch while Peter Bradbury and TJ Linnard oozed trashy sexiness as father and son, but the play was damned from the start.
Minetta Lane Theatre, closed August 28.
The Addams Family
After it was announced that Brooke Shields would play Morticia Addams through the end of the year, it was announced that out composer Andrew Lippa’s musical would die with her departure. I’m morbidly happy to report that while Bebe Neuwirth was born to play Morticia, Shields was born to replace her, despite her blithe spirit. The current cast also boasts scarily good gay talent like Roger Rees as Gomez and Brad Oscar as Uncle Fester.
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, through December 31.
Staged throughout five stories of a church that’s transformed into a Parisian tenement, Woodshed Collective’s haunting interactive experience — reminiscent of Sleep No More — was inspired by the novel adapted into a 1976 Roman Polanski thriller about a man driven mad after renting a room vacated by a woman who jumped from her window. He and various neighbors channel the dead tenant in creepy drag before the chilling finale.
West-Park Presbyterian Church, through October 1.
The Lapsburgh Layover
From Philadelphia-based performance troupe the Berserker Residents comes a smart, silly, and endlessly inventive interactive comedy about overeager citizens in a fictional Baltic-like country who — knowing that Americans love solving murder mysteries in an hour — struggle to stage a bit of noirish dinner theater to entertain those waiting for their international flight to refuel. Beware of killer frogs and “man-lady” femme fatales!
Ars Nova, through September 24.
A welcome antidote to the cloying clowns of Cirque du Soleil, Montreal’s 7 Fingers — Les 7 Doigts de la Main, if you’re fancy — reject cheesy circus conventions to create a streetwise musical acrobatic act that’s as hip as it is hazardous. Endearing themselves to the crowd by sharing their names and personality traits, sole female Valérie Benôit-Charbonneau and six appealing studs like Philippe Normand-Jenny couldn’t be cooler.
Union Square Theatre, through January 1.
Mildly rebellious teen Isabelle’s pot-fueled dalliance with her father’s young campaign manager is at the heart of Anna Kerrigan’s sweet and simple coming-of-age comedy about a Catholic family in 1970, but the play’s most disquieting revelation is that her icy mother — a Mad Men-ready Christa Scott-Reed — may be in love with her longtime best friend, Sister Connie, a nun who has just landed in the hospital after a traffic accident.
Second Stage Theatre Uptown, closed August 27.
Summer Shorts 5
This year’s Summer Shorts festival included new works by playwrights such as Christopher Durang, Neil LaBute, and José Rivera. In gay Big Love cocreator Will Scheffer’s intriguing and very personal contribution, The Green Book, The Little Dog Laughed’s Neal Huff and Trick’s ageless Christian Campbell starred as a gay couple who visit one’s mother, a Holocaust survivor whose guilty secrets are hidden by her dementia.
59E59 Theaters, closed September 3.
The Amoralists have checked in to a hotel room for their titillating site-specific double feature: In Adam Rapp’s Animals and Plants, a mysterious young woman visits two drug runners in an Appalachian blizzard; in Derek Ahonen’s Pink Knees on Pale Skin, undersexed married couples consult a doctor who facilitates organized orgies. Major male nudity and an audience of 20 make the intimacy thrillingly and unforgettably unsettling.
Gershwin Hotel, through September 19.