The Family Room: A Preview of the 2010 Off-Broadway Season

By Robert Simonson
11 Jan 2010

The Kid collaborators Michael Zam, Andy Monroe and Jack Lechner
The Kid collaborators Michael Zam, Andy Monroe and Jack Lechner

In this current age of anxiety, the ageless conundrum of how best to raise one's children — while contending with your own aging parents and making sure that you yourself have sufficiently grown up — seems to be weighing on the minds of playwrights. Several new works will premiere this winter and spring that look at protagonists contending with generations past and future and not finding any easy answers.

Two gay men struggle to the idea of becoming parents in The Kid, a new musical by Jack Lechner, Andy Monroe and Michael Zam based on Dan Savage's "The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant." (No, the show has nothing to do with the famous Charlie Chaplin silent film that goes by the same name.) The production—probably the first musical ever to be inspired by the work of a sex columnist—will be presented by The New Group this spring, with Scott Elliott directing.

The parenting tables are turned in That Face, at Manhattan Theatre Club's Stage 1 beginning April 29. The New York premiere of British dramatist Polly Stenham's play is about a disturbed mother whose school-age children have to become parents to her. Elizabeth Marvel plays the mother and Sarah Benson, of SoHo Rep fame, will direct. Meanwhile, The Book of Grace, the latest play by Suzan-Lori Parks, looks at a young man who returns home to South Texas to confront his father, whom, we assume, he is not very happy with. Expect "rage, revenge, power and betrayal" in this James McDonald-directed play, beginning March 2 at the Public Theater.

Sometimes real parents are not available to personally screw up their kid, so childless adults step in to do the heavy-lifting. Annie Baker's new play, The Aliens, is about two angry young men who decide to teach a lonely high school student "everything they know," which can't be much. And we all know what they say about a little knowledge. Sam Gold directs at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre beginning April 15.

"Teach Your Children Well" is evidently not the favorite song of the small American town found in Adam Rapp's new play The Metal Children, premiering in late spring at The Vineyard Theatre. Directed by Rapp, the drama is about a New York writer who tries to defend one of his young adult novels which had been banned by the local school board.



When the Rain Stops Falling, a rare New York premiere of an Australian play, tracks the history of one family over 80s years. Chicagoan (now New Yorker?) David Cromer, who piloted the recent Our Town and Adding Machine, directs the piece by Andrew Bovall. The cast includes the redoubtable Victoria Clark, Mary Beth Hurt and Richard Topol. Previews begin at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse on Feb. 11. Finally, the dysfunctional parenting drama of all time—Oedipus—is reinterpreted by playwright Craig Wright in a new production called Blind, at the Rattlestick starting Feb. 18. Lucie Tiberghien directs.

Time was, when we wanted to see a good play about bad parents, we turned to Sam Shepard. Well, Sam has a new play for us, all right, but it's not about family. It's about two friends. But, don't worry. They've got their grievances, too. Presented at Atlantic Theater Company and opening Jan. 27, Ages of the Moon stars Sean McGinley and Stephen Rea as two old friends who "sit, reflect, bicker, and put 50 years of love, friendship and rivalry to the test at the barrel of a gun."

Ethan Hawke
There's old Shepard on offer, too, for those who want to be reminded how the master used to do it. Ethan Hawke will direct a new production of A Lie of the Mind for The New Group beginning Jan. 29. A cool cast, including Keith Carradine, Laurie Metcalf, Josh Hamilton, Marin Ireland, Deirdre O'Connell, Alessandro Nivola, Maggie Siff and Frank Whaley, star in the tale of poor old Jake, who believes he may have murdered his wife and seeks refuge in the home of his abusive and unstable mother, while his brother Frankie goes off to investigate.

Several playwrights reach into the past for inspiration in the coming months. David Ives' latest, Venus in Fur, is based on the famous, 19th-century erotic novel about sado-masochism of the same name, but set today at a play audition. It runs at Classic Stage Company starting Jan. 13, with Walter Bobbie directing. Bill Cain's Equivocation, directed by Garry Hynes at Manhattan Theatre Club from Feb. 9 on, is about Shakespeare's acting troupe and the writer's attempt to write about current events, circa 1605. Yank!, the new musical by David and Joseph Zellnik, meanwhile, centers on a scared Midwestern kid who gets drafted for World War II in 1943, and becomes a photographer for Yank Magazine. It plays the York Theatre Company starting Feb. 16. Also set during WWII is Gabriel, at the Atlantic in April. Playwright Moira Buffini examines the German occupation of the Channel Islands during the war.

Mariana Elder, Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen set their new musical, The Burnt Part Boys, about a group of teenagers coming of age in West Virginia coal country, in 1962. The joint production of Playwrights Horizon and the Vineyard Theatre begins in May.

Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers takes place—when else?—during Watergate, and takes an inside look at The Washington Post's decision to famously publish the classified study in question. Leroy Aarons and Geoffrey Cowan's play is presented at New York Theatre Workshop from Feb. 24 on. And playwright A.R. Gurney taps into his own personal history for The Grand Manner, about his experience going backstage to meet actress Katherine Cornell after a performance of Antony and Cleopatra. (Hey, if theatre people aren't going to remind us about long-forgotten, one-time theatre greats, who will?) That would have been in 1947, when she was 49 and he was 17. Mark Lamos directs at Lincoln Center Theater beginning May 27.

A couple works by actor-playwrights will be on display: Claudia Shear's Restoration at NYTW and Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park at Playwrights Horizons. The first, featuring Dirty Blonde creator Shear, is about Giulia Alfani, a once-rising star in the world of art restoration, who secures an interview with L'Accademia in Florence for the job of refreshing Michelangelo's David in preparation for its 500th birthday. The latter (which does not feature Norris) takes on the ever-present issue of urban gentrification.

John Lithgow and Jennifer Ehle
All sounds like pretty heavy sledding, doesn't it? Well, for comic relief there's Mr. & Mrs. Fitch, by Douglas Carter Beane, who seems to have been put on this earth to provide steady comic relief. His new play about two gossip columnists will star the heavy hitters John Lithgow and Jennifer Ehle and begin Jan. 26.

Other attractions scheduled to bow between now and June include: Happy Now?, at Primary Stages beginning Jan. 26, in which writer Lucinda Coxon paints a picture of a woman who struggles to balance personal freedom with family life, fidelity and a demanding job; A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick by Kia Corthron, about an African preacher-in-training who is taken in by a family in the American South, at Playwrights Horizons in March; The Pride, by Alexi Kaye Campbell, directed by Joe Mantello, at MCC Theatre starting Jan. 27, about a "complex love triangle" (are there any simple ones?) that jumps from 1958 to the present and back; The Vultures, Henri Brecque's two-part play exposing everything from human avarice to institutional fraud, at the Flea Theatre, starting Feb. 25; a new revival of Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band by the Transport Group Theatre Company, previewing in February; Tennessee Williams' classic drama The Glass Menagerie, starring Judith Ivey as Amanda, starting March 25 at the Roundabout Theatre Company; the T.S. Eliot play The Cocktail Party, presented by The Actors Company Theatre at the Beckett Theatre, with previews from March 7; The Forest, Kathleen Tolan's adaptation of Alexander Ostrovsky's romantic romp about two vagabond actors who crash an estate posing as gentry, at CSC, beginning April 14; and a new production of Beth Henley's Family Week, with Jonathan Demme directing Rosemary DeWitt at MCC Theatre.