Seat Filler: What's Hot Off-Broadway

By Brandon Voss

Originally published on Advocate.com August 16 2014 2:30 PM ET

Donkey Punch
The friendship between gal pals, promiscuous Kareena and prudish Sam, becomes strained when they bed unlikely partners — a boring nice guy and a sleazy soft-core horror-porn director — in Micheline Auger's frank feminist comedy about the side effects of sexual liberation. What's more entertaining than watching beautiful people making bad choices? Named for the violent sex act, this sharp and provocative satire is sure to leave a mark — or at least a temporary burning sensation.
Soho Playhouse, through August 31.

King Lear
Love Is Strange star John Lithgow totally rules this straightforward and stormy Shakespeare in the Park staging as a petulant but piteous monarch descending into madness. Directed by Daniel Sullivan in a vaguely medieval setting with very hot spear-carriers, the Bard's tragedy frustrates with puzzling motivations and questionable actions, but it's a royal treat to watch Annette Bening and Jessica Hecht dig their talons into Goneril and Regan, Lear's cruel and conniving daughters.
Delacorte Theater, through August 17.

Phoenix
Unless you're a huge Julia Stiles fan, you may find 10 things to hate about Scott Organ's intimate rom-com about mismatched New Yorkers Sue and Bruce, whose drunken hookup leads to a trip to an abortion clinic in the Grand Canyon state. Stiles and appealing up-and-comer James Wirt largely overcome their forced banter, and Wirt's Bruce could charm the pants off anyone with his cute tees and casseroles, but insincere direction and amateurish design do the paper-thin play no favors.
Cherry Lane Theatre, through August 23.

Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter
It doesn't get much weirder than Icelandic songwriter Ívar Páll Jónsson's visually stunning indie rock musical, an ambitious allegorical critique of capitalism, set in some dude's elbow — like Whoville by way of Urinetown. Led by Hollywood-bound hunk Marrick Smith as a charismatic antihero who dooms his lil' community by inventing a cash-spitting "prosperity machine," the game cast includes Cady Huffman, a Tony winner for The Producers, and former Miss America Kate Shindle.
Minetta Lane Theatre, open-ended.

Sex With Strangers
Directed by Friends alum David Schwimmer, Laura Eason's snappy and satisfying dramedy stars Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn and Into the Woods prince Billy Magnussen as attractive writers using each other to reinvent themselves in the social media age. Will the cocky cad become as respected as he is rich and famous? Will her new novel be in print or an eBook? No, the stakes aren't high, but it's not hard to hop in bed with two fine actors in the stage equivalent of a summer beach read.
Second Stage Theatre, through August 31.

Read last month's theater picks here.

Contributor: 
Brandon Voss