Theatergoers are often taught to believe that the ultimate theatrical achievement involved making it to Broadway—that magical Manhattan street where the lights are bright, the audiences are sophisticated, and the shows playing in any of its 40 theaters are the very best that New York City has to offer. While there are a number of wonderful productions currently filling those stages, Broadway should not be a theatergoer’s sole destination. Here’s a look at a just a small sampling of productions currently playing at some Off-Broadway theater companies to prove that sometimes we stumble upon the best theater when we travel off the beaten path.
Take, for example, the second show in MCC Theatre’s 2013 season: Paul Downs Colaizzo’s Really Really. Directed by David Cromer, Colaizzo’s play tells the story of a circle of friends whose final semester of college begins to crumble when Leigh (Girls star Zosia Mamet) accuses privileged golden boy Davis (Friday Night Lights star Matt Lauria) of rape. As their friends begin to choose sides, Colaizzo weaves a complicated web marked by sexual politics and a future of uncertainty, leaving audiences wondering just how far these characters are willing to go to get everything that they want. A daring and topical look at the entitlement of our generation, Really Really runs through this Saturday, March 30 at the Lucille Lortel Theater. (http://www.mcctheater.org/shows/12-13_season/reallyreally/index.html)
Playwrights Horizons continues their season with the world premiere of Annie Baker’s The Flick, running through April 7 at their Mainstage Theater. Fans of Baker, who Time Out New York just named one of the “Future Legends of New York Theater,” won’t be disappointed with this new piece. Baker, with her trademark ear for the natural flow of conversation, tells the story of three employees of a run-down movie theater. Though the play clocks in at three hours, don’t be intimidated by its run time—Baker’s work is consistently excellent, and the opportunity to see any production of her work should be seized. (http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/plays/flick/)
For those of you more interested in musical theater, fear not—Off-Broadway theaters are also home to some of this season’s most exciting musical revivals. Classic Stage Company (CSC) is producing their very first musical with John Doyle’s production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Passion, winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1994 (it subsequently closed after 280 performances, making it the shortest-running Best Musical winner in history). Doyle, who received acclaim for his productions of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd and Company, has tapped into the raw beauty of this tale of the obsessive nature of love, drawing impressive performances from an ensemble of actors led by Ryan Silverman, Melissa Errico, and Judy Kuhn. Already extended twice, Passion now runs through April 19. (http://www.classicstage.org/season/passion/)
Also noteworthy is Jason Robert Brown’s new production of his popular two-person musical The Last Five Years, currently playing at Second Stage Theater’s Midtown mainstage through May 12. Brown’s X-shaped musical, which last appeared in New York during its 2002 Off-Broadway debut, chronicles the five-year relationship between Jamie (Adam Kantor), an up-and-coming writer, and Cathy (Betsy Wolfe), a struggling actress. As they each chart the disintegration of their relationship from their own perspectives, the two characters treat to a wonderful production of this very special one-act musical. (http://www.2st.com/plays/viewPlay/0/169/)