OFF-BROADWAY SPRING PREVIEW 2012: Carrie, John Patrick Shanley, David Rabe, Annie Baker, Denis O'Hare and More

Special Features   OFF-BROADWAY SPRING PREVIEW 2012: Carrie, John Patrick Shanley, David Rabe, Annie Baker, Denis O'Hare and More
 
In the winter and spring months ahead, Off-Broadway stages will see plays by Gina Gionfriddo, Annie Baker, Dan LeFranc, John Patrick Shanley, David Rabe and more. A revised version of the musical Carrie also promises a bloody good time. Playbill offers you a selection of the spring 2012 lineup at a glance.

Carrie stars Marin Mazzie and Molly Ranson
Carrie stars Marin Mazzie and Molly Ranson Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

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For connoisseurs of what might be termed Rubbernecking Theatre — shows you can't not look at — there is no Off-Broadway attraction this coming year to beat Carrie, which, against all odds following its famous status as a gory commercial flop in the 1980s, is set to begin previews at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on Jan. 31. The quixotic organization producing the enterprise is the trusty, respected Off-Broadway troupe MCC Theater, known for Wit, Frozen, The Other Place, Reasons to be Pretty and other dramas.

Even if you're not a regular theatregoer, the title rings a bell. Certainly as a famous Stephen King novel, and as an equally noteworthy Brian DePalma film. But the disastrous 1988 musical that emerged from the material has attained an almost equal notoriety. The show came from the minds of bookwriter Lawrence D. Cohen (who penned the original screenplay), composer Michael Gore and lyricist Dean Pitchford, and it crashed and burned on Broadway after only five performances, the capitalization of more than $7 million sent swirling down the drain like so much blood. The bellyflop has been the stuff of theatre legend ever since. (Author Ken Mandelbaum's book about flop shows is a fan favorite; he titled it "Not Since Carrie.")

Look Back in Anger cast members Charlotte Parry and Matthew Rhys
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The creators have been reworking the musical since then, and they're ready to show the world what they've accomplished. Along for the ride are director Stafford Arima (London's Ragtime, Off-Broadway's Altar Boyz), and actresses Molly Ranson and Marin Mazzie (as the shy, unfortunate Carrie and her religious whack-job of a mother).

Anyone who likes the work of rising director Sam Gold (Circle Mirror Transformation, Tigers Be Still) will be a happy person in 2012. The busy young man has three productions in the works. First up is a new revival of Look Back in Anger at the Roundabout Theatre Company, where Gold is an associate artist. Adam Driver, Sarah Goldberg, Charlotte Parry and Matthew Rhys star in the production of John Osborne's 1956 British classic about Billy Porter and his discontented, anti-establishment generation. Opening night at the Laura Pels is Feb. 2. Next from Gold, beginning March 1 at Playwrights Horizons is The Big Meal, a Thornton Wilderesque work (1931's The Long Christmas Dinner) by Dan LeFranc tracing five generations of a modern family though a collection of strung-together dinner-table scenes at a suburban restaurant. Finally, Gold will stage a new adaptation, by Annie Baker (The Aliens), of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, playing at Soho Rep beginning June 7. Reed Birney will lead the cast. The Signature Theatre Company, which devotes each season to one playwright in its Residency One series, is giving its inaugural season in its new Frank Gehry-designed facility — Signature Center, on West 42nd Street — to South African dramatist Athol Fugard. The line-up begins with Blood Knot. The play — about two biracial and temperamentally different South African brothers struggling with poverty and isolation — will open the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, with performances beginning Jan. 31 toward an opening night of Feb. 16. The production runs to March 11. The season also includes Fugard's My Children! My Africa! and The Train Driver. The busy Signature beehive (there are three performance spaces within the complex) will also include plays by Edward Albee (The Lady From Dubuque starring Jane Alexander), Kenneth Lonergan (a world premiere, title TBA), Will Eno (the U.S. premiere of Title and Deed) and Katori Hall (the world premiere of Hurt Village).

Stephen Kunken

While as a trend, it's superficial, one can't help but notice that a number of playwrights this winter and spring have felt content to title their new plays with abbreviations. The first example of titular shorthand is RX, a play about a clinical trial for a new drug targeting workplace depression, by Kate Fodor (100 Saints You Should Know). Ethan McSweeny directs Stephen Kunken, Marylouise Burke and Marin Hinkle at Primary Stages, starting Jan. 24. Over at the Atlantic Theater Company, from Jan. 25 on, will be CQ/CX, a world premiere by former New York Times staffer Gabe McKinley which draws inspiration from the Jayson Blair journalism scandal. (The title refers to two arcane editing terms regarding editorial questions and corrections — two marks that Blair's work provoked rather often.) Meanwhile, at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, David Adjmi's 3C will tell of a bargain struck in the 1970s between Vietnam vet Brad and roomies Connie and Linda. Adjmi says his was inspired by 1970s sitcoms ("Three's Company"?), 1950s existentialist comedy, Chekhov and, um, disco anthems. Get ready. It begins June. 6.

Remember the "Church and State" trilogy playwright John Patrick Shanley said he was planning, the one that began with the massive hit Doubt? Well, he followed that 2004 drama up pretty quickly with Defiance in 2005. Then ensued a long pause. The wait will finally be over when Sleeping Demon begins this spring at the Atlantic. The world-premiere play is about a Bronx Borough President who is forced by the mortgage crisis into a confrontation with a local minister.

Another highly anticipated follow-up of the spring comes from the spunky team that brought the world the meta-musical [title of show]. Hunter Bell, Susan Blackwell, Jeff Bowen, Heidi Blickenstaff and Larry Pressgrove are back with more autobiographical musicality and idiosyncratic punctuation in the form of Now. Here. This., which will commence at the Vineyard Theatre in March. This "theatri-concert" (let's hope that doesn't become a widely accepted term; just try saying it) from the inexhaustibly navel-gazing quartet celebrates living in the present (note the spelling of "here" in the title). Michael Berresse directs.

Lily Rabe and David Rabe
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

A notable family project will be going down at Acorn Theatre, when The New Group presents David Rabe's new play An Early History of Fire starring the writer's daughter Lily Rabe (The Merchant of Venice, Seminar), now easily one of the leading stage actresses of her generation. The ever-busy Jo Bonney directs the tale, set in a Midwestern town in the early 1960s, about a man intrigued by a woman who went to college in the east, but tied down by loyalty to his immigrant father. Previews are in April.

Every Off-Broadway season has its share of revivals, both of contemporary works and classics, and 2012 is not different. Second Stage has decided it's time to look at Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize-winner How I Learned Drive, casting Norbert Leo Butz and Elizabeth Reaser in the memory play about the unusual and disturbing coming of age of one Southern girl. Kate Whoriskey directs, beginning Jan. 24. Keen Company, meanwhile, continues its long relationship with Tina Howe by reviving the writer's 1983 family play Painting Churches. Kathleen Chalfant and Richard Easton play the endearing, quirky, aging parents at the center. It will begin previews Feb. 14. Film and (now) TV star Christina Ricci ("Pan Am") gets a taste of Shakespeare paying Hermia in a new Classic Stage Company mounting of A Midsummer Night's Dream co-starring Bebe Neuwirth as Titania, and directed by Tony Speciale, starting March 28. Also at CSC will be a new production of Brecht's towering portrayal of ideological idealism and compromise, Galileo, starring F. Murray Abraham, and directed by Brian Kulick. Previews begin Feb. 1.

A classic of a sort with be offered by New York Theatre Workshop when they unveil An Iliad starting Feb. 14. Note the article in the title — An, not The. This adaptation of Homer's epic poem is by director Lisa Peterson and actor Denis O'Hare, and purports to tell the ancient tale of the Trojan War "through an original, contemporary, and immediate voice." O'Hare and Stephen Spinella, two of our more emphatic actors, star.

Gabriel Kahane

At the Public Theater, Gabriel Kahane and Seth Bockley have found musical fodder in a piece of real New York bohemian history — the 1940s house on Middagh Street in Brooklyn Heights (now gone, thanks to Robert Moses and the BQE) that once simultaneously housed the likes of Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britten, W.H. Auden, Paul Bowles, Richard Wright, Gypsy Rose Lee and more. February House begins performances May 8. (The Public is also welcoming back Elevator Repair Service's hit Gatz this spring.)

Other Off-Broadway attractions coming up in the next several months: Yosemite, the world premiere of Daniel Talbott's play about three siblings who are sent out into the woods to dig a hole deep enough to bury a family secret, starting Jan. 18 at Rattlestick starring Kathryn Erbe; The Ugly One, a Daniel Aukin-directed social satire by Marius von Mayenburg about a widget designer who has a normal life, until one day he learns the truth, at Soho Rep beginning Feb. 1; Playwrights Horizons' Assistance, a Leslye Headland play about young assistants to a hellacious boss, beginning Feb. 3; Erika Sheffer's Russian Transport, about an immigrant couple, their two assimilated teenagers and the upheaval they experience when an uncle from the old country comes to stay with them, presented by The New Group on Jan. 17.

Amy Herzog

And there's more: The Morini Stand, starting March 20 at Primary Stages, Willy Holtzman's play inspired by the true story of concert violinist Erica Morini and her legendary Stradivari violin; Massacre (Sing to the Children), Playwrights Horizons' premiere of José Rivera's play about seven friends who conspire to murder their mysterious neighbor, beginning April 3; also at PH, Rapture, Blister, Burn, a new play by Gina Gionfriddo (Becky Shaw) about two friends who took opposite paths after grad school, and now covet each other's lives, beginning May 11; Food and Fadwa, a NOOR Theatre/New York Theatre Workshop collaboration on Lameece Issaq and Jacob Kader's play about 30-something Palestinian woman living in the West Bank who insists on continuing the preparations for the wedding of her younger sister, despite her politically volatile surroundings, commencing May 18; the return of Lincoln Center Theater's LCT3 hit production of Amy Herzog's play 4,000 Miles, moving to the Mitzi Newhouse, on March 15; the first New York City revival of Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers will get staged at the Beckett starting March 13 by TACT/The Actors Company Theatre (co-artistic director Jenn Thompson, whose Eccentricities of a Nightingale was lauded there, directs); Lonely, I'm Not, Second Stage's mounting of Paul Weitz's play about a man who has been married and divorced, earned seven figures and had a nervous breakdown, and is ready to try again after not having had a job or a date for four years, with previews starting in spring; and, finally, the most zanily titled play of the season, Chimichangas and Zoloft, an Atlantic Theater staging, starting in late spring, of Fernanda Coppel's play about a woman who leaves her family to go on a Zoloft and chimichangas binge. That, apparently, is a thing some people do.

Every Off-Broadway season is a non-stop, inexhaustible pageant of endless attractions. This survey does not purport or pretend to be complete or comprehensive in any way, shape or fashion.

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