FALL 2014 OFF-BROADWAY PREVIEW: Into the Woods and Allegro Return Alongside New Works from Neil LaBute, Suzan-Lori Parks, Billy Porter and Heidi Schreck

News   FALL 2014 OFF-BROADWAY PREVIEW: Into the Woods and Allegro Return Alongside New Works from Neil LaBute, Suzan-Lori Parks, Billy Porter and Heidi Schreck
Playbill.com offers a round-up of some of the new productions, ranging from edgy new works to classic revivals, playing Off-Broadway during the fall season.
T.R. Knight
T.R. Knight Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN


As has been the case in recent seasons, the Public Theater has an ambitious docket of plays in store. But none are as ambitious as Suzan-Lori Parks’ three-part play set over the course of the Civil War (Hello, Mourning Becomes Electra!) titled Father Comes Home From War (Parts 1, 2 & 3).

Directed by Jo Bonney, all three plays will be presented in a single evening. The dramas rotate around Hero, a significantly-named slave, and his adventures during the War Between the States, beginning with a decision whether or not to fight on the Confederate side in exchange of a promise of freedom. Previews begin Oct. 14.

Nearly as impressive an undertaking is composer Michael Friedman and playwright Itamar Moses' attempt to musicalize Jonathan Letham's dense Brooklyn-based novel The Fortress of Solitude. The quasi-magical, coming of age story, which is set in the gritty 1970s and centered on the unlikely friendship between two kids, one white and one African-American, stars Kyle Beltran and Adam Chanler-Berat in the lead roles. Previews begin at the Public Oct. 1.

Take an Emily Mann adaptation of an Ingmar Bergman movie and put it in the hands of Dutch director Ivo Van Hove and you have a made-in-avant-garde-heaven recipe for theatre. New York Theatre Workshop will present Scenes From a Marriage beginning Sept. 3. Tina Benko, Dallas Roberts and Roslyn Ruff star in the piece, which was first seen in London last year. On a smaller scale, but no less arty, is A Particle of Dread, which will see playwright Sam Shepard tackle the Oedipus Rex story, with Stephen Rea in the lead role. The fragmented, modern-day take on the Greek classic premiered in Derry, Ireland, and features actors from both sides of the Atlantic. Previews begin Nov. 11 at the Signature Theatre Company.

Samuel D. Hunter had a significant impact with his last play at Playwrights Horizons, The Whale. He's back this November with Pocatello, which tells of the manager of an Italian chain restaurant in — of all places — Pocatello, Idaho. David McCallum directs. T.R. Knight stars. The play is described as a "heartbreaking comedy is a cry for connection in an increasingly lonely American landscape."

Billy Porter
Billy Porter Photo by Monica Simoes

Another manager — this one of a Bronx soup kitchen — is the focus of Grand Concourse, another new plays at Playwrights Horizons. Dramatist (and actress) Heidi Schreck tells the tale of Shelly, who is called to a life of religious service but is feeling increasingly jaded, and Emma, an idealistic volunteer who upsets Shelly's emotional apple cart. Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Bobby Moreno and Lee Wilkof star, beginning Oct. 17.

Also trying to make a connection are the two characters — played by John Hawkes and Tracie Thoms — in David Auburn's new work, Lost Lake, directed by Daniel Sullivan at Manhattan Theatre Club from Oct. 21. Thoms plays a woman who is pulled into the troubles of the man (Hawkes) who owns the lakeside property she has rented. Meanwhile, at MCC, Neil LaBute arrives Sept. 4 with a new play with a very LaBute title, The Money Shot. Gia Crovatin, Elizabeth Reaser, Callie Thorne and Frederick Weller star in the yarn about two desperate movie stars.

If you've ever attended the musical Kinky Boots and wondered how the star, Billy Porter, came to be Billy Porter, a new play at Primary Stages has the answer. While I Yet Live, written by Porter, is an autobiographical drama about coming of age in Pittsburgh amongst a collection of strong-willed women. Previews begin Sept. 23.

A couple more dramatic takes on growing up African-American are offered by Playwrights Horizons and LAByrinth Theater Company. The first, which opens Sept. 10, is Bootycandy, Robert O'Hara's interconnecting satirical sketches "about growing up gay and black." LAByrinth, meanwhile, will in September present Craig muMs Grant’s one-man, hip-hop-infused show, A Sucker Emcee, which traces his journey from growing up in the Bronx to starring on HBO’s "Oz."

An array of unlikely revivals are also part of the Off-Broadway scene this autumn. Indian Ink is one of the few Tom Stoppard plays never to have gotten a major New York staging. That will change Sept. 4, when the 1995 work is mounted by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the Laura Pels Theatre. Carey Perloff directs that story about a free-spirited English poet in 1930s India, and her younger sister's attempts to preserve her sister's career in 1980s England. Rosemary Harris stars.

America Ferrera
America Ferrera

Little has been seen in New York of The Killing of Sister George since the Frank Marcus play graced Broadway in 1966. The play — about a monstrous soap opera actress whose character on a popular radio series may be killed off by studio executives — will be revived by The Actors Company Theatre at the Beckett Theatre beginning Sept. 23. Cynthia Harris, Darrie Lawrence, Caitlin O’Connell and Margot White star in the piece, which originally featured Beryl Reid and Eileen Atkins.

Also back after a long absence is David Rabe's Vietnam-era drama Sticks and Bones, which won a Tony Award back in 1973. Scott Elliot will direct The New Group's new rendition, which features Richard Chamberlain, Holly Hunter, and Bill Pullman in the torrid tale of a blind war vet who returns home. Previews begin Oct. 21.

Also dealing with the effects of war, in a roundabout way, is A Walk in The Woods, in which two super power arms negotiators meet in the woods after long hours at the bargaining table. The play — the best-known work by Lee Blessing — is being done by the Keen Company, starting Sept. 9. In a switch from typical casting, one of the officials (the Russian one) will be played by a woman, Kathleen Chalfant.

Terrence McNally's Lips Together, Teeth Apart — about two uneasy couples spending an uneasy time at a country home — was a success when first presented at Manhattan Theatre Club in 1991. It will have its first New York production since then Oct. 7 at Second Stage. America Ferrera, Michael Chernus, Tracee Chimo and Austin Lysy play the quartet, roles that were created by Christine Baranski, Anthony Heald, Swoosie Kurtz and Nathan Lane.

Conor McPherson's Port Authority was last done in New York only six years ago. But Irish Repertory Theatre feels it's high time for another look. Ciarán O’Reilly will stage the piece, starring Billy Carter, Peter Maloney and James Russell as three generations of Irish men. Previews begin Sept. 24.

Elizabeth A. Davis will star in <i>Allegro</i>
Elizabeth A. Davis will star in Allegro

Allegro was a rare failure for Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II when it debuted in 1947. The story of a man's life from cradle to early manhood will be given another chance Nov. 1, when John Doyle mounts it at Classic Stage Company. Hammerstein's protege, Stephen Sondheim, will also enjoy a new look at one of his pieces, as Into the Woods is revived at the Roundabout's Pels Theatre. Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld will direct Sondheim's flip side of familiar fairytales, starting Dec. 18.

Folks who like a good Christmas play (that's not A Christmas Carol) have a couple choices, one traditional, one new. Irish Rep will present a musical dramatization of Truman Capote's classic A Christmas Memory, starting Nov. 25 at the DR2 Theatre. And the Public Theatre will stage Young Jean Lee's new Straight White Men, about a family coming together to celebrate Christmas. The men in questions are Austin Pendleton, Scott Shepherd, Pete Simpson, and James Stanley. It begins Nov. 7.

Finally, legendary theatre auteur Peter Brook returns to New York for the first time in a long while with The Valley of Astonishment, starting Sept. 15 at Theatre for a New Audience. Never one to lack for artistic ambition, Brook joins with Marie-Hélène Estienne in this play that purports to journey "into the wonders of the human brain."

Also being offered this season: Found, an original musical based on discarded notes and letters, drawn from Davy Rothbart's popular Found Magazine, at the Atlantic Theatre Company, from Sept. 18; Tail! Spin!, Mario Correa's comedy about the sex scandals that brought down politicians Anthony Weiner, Mark Sanford, Mark Foley and Larry Craig, at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre, beginning Sept. 18; Billy & Ray, Mike Bencivenga's new comedy charting the birth of the film noir genre, at the Vineyard Theatre, starting Oct. 1; Brownsville Song (B-Side for Tray), Kimber Lee's new play about the family of Tray, a spirited 17 year-old whose life is cut short, at Lincoln Center Theater's Claire Tow Theater, from Oct. 4; also at LCT, The Oldest Boy, Sarah Ruhl's new work, about the toddler son of an American woman and a Tibetan man, who is recognized as the reincarnation of a high Buddhist teacher, commencing Oct. 9; Punk Rock, a new play by the British Simon Stephens, about the students in a private school outside of Manchester, starting Oct. 29 at MCC; a new production of Marlowe's seldom-seen Tamburlaine, Parts I and II, with John Douglas Thompson in the title role, at Theatre for a New Audience beginning Nov. 1; and By the Water, Sharyn Rothstein's play about a Staten Island community rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy, from Nov. 4 at MTC.

(AUTHOR'S NOTE: The Off-Broadway landscape is a vast and sprawling thing. This round-up is not intended to be exhaustive or comprehensive.)

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