An Excellent Week (for me) in NYC Theatre

So many people who live in NY say they do it to be near all of the culture and the arts.  But so many of those same people never venture further than their TV set for entertainment or – ahem – culture.

Not me.

We have subscriptions to several different theatres:  The Vineyard Theatre, The Signature Theatre, The Transport Group, and The New Victory. Plus we’re members of The Metropolitan Museum, The Museum of Natural History, The Whitney, and the Museum of Modern Art. Is it expensive? You bet. But as a subscriber you’re supporting the theatre you subscribe to, and you get  MUCH cheaper tickets usually before they go on sale to the general public. We also get a TON of “buy discounted tickets” post cards in the mail, and I sometimes do. And as for the museums?  I want to support the arts in NYC. Think about how much your cable bill is every month, and all that supports is the business of television.  Not that there isn’t good TV out there.  But live theater, seeing art in the flesh (in the paint) – nothing beats it.

See?  We really do use the cultural resources this city has to offer.

Admittedly, sometimes it doesn’t go so well.   (see my snarky Disney on Broadway bashing post from last week) But I have a rule: if it stinks, I leave. No need to pay twice.  I mean, I already paid for the tickets, why should I also pay with my time and suffering?  And hey, isn’t that what intermissions are for?

But this past week, the Theatre Gods  were with me, and I saw three (!) truly wonderful things.  (Plus, I saw the no-longer playing Interviewing the Audience two weeks ago – you can read about it here.) So  I thought I’d write about the FABULOUS things I’ve seen this week.

1. The Book of Mormon

This show is AWESOME.  The FUNNIEST thing you will see for a decade!  It is also not for the easily offended.  If poking fun at God (with serious vulgarities) offends you – don’t go to this show. If, however, the idea of the word of God being handed down by Hobbits appeals to you – by all means, get thee to the theatre. The musical, by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, tells the story of two Mormon Missionaries sent to Africa. It’s about Mormonism – but only  because they had to choose one religion to use to go after organized religion in general.  I don’t want to tell you much – the jokes are so fresh and surprising (except for the one where the main character equates– where else: Disney Land? – to heaven on earth.) that I don’t want to give any of them away.  Suffice it to say: the sets are clever, the choreography complex and interesting, the musical hummable and bright, the performers talented and the book and lyrics totally hysterical. The funniest show I have EVER seen. Plus, it has a point of view, and something to say. I may be starting to believe in miracles…or at least in Musical Theatre again.

2. Hello Again!

Maybe not at the other end of the spectrum…but pretty far from The Book of Mormon’s big-bold production and style, is this intimate, innovative production of Michael John La Chiusa’s Hello Again from The Transport Group.  A little background: The Transport Group is a theatre without a home.  So every production moves to a different space, which is incorporated into the staging.  Last year, they did a revival of The Boys in the Band, a play that takes place at a party in a downtown NY apartment.  So the production was in…you guess it – a downtown NY apartment, where audience members not only ringed the room, but say inside of the apartment itself, in effect joining the party. Fabulous.

This production also used a loft space downtown, and turned it into a dinner party or cabaret.  Round tables  – a bar at one end.  Plus, the action of the play takes place, in large part, on top of the tables. You are IN the scenes.

And what’s the action?  Well, lots and lots of sex.  Not actual sex, mind you.  But actual bare butts on actors simulating sex.  Aside from the sex there is a complex and wonderful score and perhaps the most uniformly and incredibly talented ensemble cast ever “ensembled.”

True, there are times when you can’t see everything that’s going on. But if they were trying to immerse you in the experience…well done.

3. Skelig

This was at The New Victory, and was, supposedly, for kids.  But as often happens with these productions, I liked it more than the kids.  Based on the YA novel, Skelig tells the story of a young boy who finds a creature – is it a man, an angel, a figment of his imagination? – in the garage of his new home. The production was dark and beautiful, the set interesting enough to look at that even though it stays the same throughout the performance you don’t get tired of it, and again – the performances quite good.

Usually, “kids show” are pandering and stupid, with horrible production values.  So I don’t want that.  But this one was, perhaps, a little too dark and deep for kids.  At least my kids.  They’re not so ready for exploring the themes of death, and reality. Maybe European kids are more sophisticated!  Well, of course they are…they’re European!!

There you have it: three great shows in one week.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Note: Tickets for The Book of Mormon (still in previews) and Hello Again (limited run) are available.  But Skelig has left the building!

Comments

  1. says

    I love your recommendations. I am headed to the New Vic tomorrow with my daughter to see “Mischief” – will let you know how it is.

    On another note, I also have many memberships (many of the same ones you have) and like the fact that I pay less than others but get to experience high quality theater. I never pay more than $40 for a show, and even that is quite high for me. On the rare occasion, as you have seen, I will leave at intermission without guilt. My time is more precious now that I have kids, so if I’m in the city and a play isn’t meeting my expectations, I walk out. I’m not saying I like when this happens, but it definitely happens more than I’d like it to.

  2. babiesgottahaveit says

    Hooray for live theater! Thanks for the reviews. I heard today that THE BOOK OF MORMON is sold out for months…I should book my tickets for July now. Also just loving the stories of Momming in the city. I’m in San Francisco for three months and missing home. How is it that a story of an abusive boyfriend threatening to kill his girlfriend, you running down the street like a crazy person, and riot gear makes me homesick. Sigh. It does.

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