Fall Arts Preview 2022: Theater You Won’t Want to Miss

New York theater rolls into fall again with a packed schedule of Broadway, off-Broadway, and experimental theater.

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A year ago, New York theater was masked up, checking vaxx status, and cautiously re-opening after eighteen months of soul-crushing limbo. And, as Sondheim wrote, we’re still here. Face masks are now optional on Broadway, more or less required Off Broadway, and long-running hits such as Hamilton are hitting pre-pandemic numbers. Now it’s the start of a new season, one that may unfold outside of the shadow of Covid. So we’re back to normal? Put it this way: selecting only a dozen shows for this fall preview was agony, as certain princes sing. So consider the following a tasting menu: a mix of Broadway, Off and Off-Off, not too heavy on London imports (sorry, Straight Line Crazy), while balancing plays and musicals. 


Marie, It's Time

  • Here / Sept 21 - Oct 21

If your taste runs to irreverent riffs on cryptic classics, try this queered deconstruction of Woyzeck, Büchner’s bleak tale of madness and murder. Devised by the subversive Minor Theater, Marie, It’s Time explores Woyzeck’s doomed lover and baby mama Marie via punk-rock attitude and transgressive eros. Performed by playwright-actor Julia Jarcho, Jennifer Seastone and Kedian Keohan and directed by Ásta Bennie Hostetter, the show should scratch your avant-itch.

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Marie, It's Time (Julia Jarcho and Jennifer Seastone) Maria Baranova

Four Saints in Three Acts

  • Target Margin Theater / Sept 7 -24

For most downtown fanboys and fangirls, I could type “Greenspan, Gertrude Stein, solo” and knock off early. Yes, the inimitable playwright-actor David Greenspan has absorbed the whole 1927 libretto that Stein wrote for Virgil Thomson’s anti-opera and turned it into yet another virtuosic one-man theater ravishment. Greenspan’s balletic grace, his multi-octave vocal fluidity, the shocking clarity of his phrasing—all will be placed in the service of Stein’s poetic fancy.

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Four Saint Three Acts by Aaron Epstein Courtesy of company

Leopoldstadt

  • Longacre Theater / Sept 14 - Jan 29

Living legend Tom Stoppard looks back at his Jewish family history in this tale that begins in 1899 Vienna and pushes into the darkest depths of the twentieth century. Patrick Marber directs a cast of 38 in this London import that could be one of the last plays we get from this titanic 85-year-old playwright. In a wealthy family’s drawing room, we see relatives gather over the decades, fleeing the pogroms of Ukraine to the horrors of the Holocaust.

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Leopoldstatdt Marc Brenner

1776

  • American Airlines Theater / Sept 16 - Jan 8

It’s a revival of the beloved 1969 musical by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone about the thorny negotiations that led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence—but with a twist. The traditional mostly male cast is now all-women. You could say that co-directors Jeffrey L. Page and Diane Paulus are retrofitting an old classic for the Hamilton-besotted present. 

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1776 Evan Zimmerman

Topdog/Underdog

  • Golden Theatre / Sept 27 - Jan 15

Those who saw Suzan-Lori Parks’s hard-hitting two-hander on Broadway 20 years ago with Mos Def and Jeffrey Wright may worry that it can’t be topped (guilty). But if two guys can take on this shifty, twisty, mysterious tale of two quarreling brothers in a flophouse, it’s Corey Hawkins (The Tragedy of Macbeth) and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (HBO's Watchmen). Kenny Leon directs.

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Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Seye Isikalu

Kimberly Akimbo

  • Booth Theatre / previews Oct 12 / opens Nov 10

When this quirky new musical opened Off Broadway last fall, I called composer Jeanine Tesori  “the most significant musical-theater composer of the past twenty years.” She absolutely is: Her vibrant scores for Fun Home and Caroline, or Change alone assure her a place in Broadway’s pantheon. Kimberly is a smaller chamber piece, the story of a teen girl with a genetic condition that causes her to age decades early—hence she’s played by stage veteran Victoria Clark. Can’t wait to see if the show attracts the cult following it deserves.

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Victoria Clark plays a teenager with Methuselah Syndrome in 'Kimberly Akimbo.' Photo by Ahron R. Foster/ahronfoster.com

KPOP

  • Circle in the Square Theater / previews Oct 13 / opens Nov 20

Previously seen (in 2017) as an immersive tour of a Korean pop-music factory (grueling dance rehearsals, eyelid surgery, diva fits), this high-energy exposé comes to Broadway converted into a more conventional book musical. Directed by Teddy Bergman, with a savvy book by Jason Kim, the piece both criticizes and hopes to cash in on the multibillion-dollar global phenomenon.

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KPOP's Luna Jenny Anderson

Automatic Writing

  • The Brick / Oct 26 - 30

Experimental composer Robert Ashley (1930-2014) thought he might have a mild case of Tourette syndrome, which led to an exploration of “involuntary language” in his acclaimed 1979 album, Automatic Writing. Now Brooklyn collective Object Collection remounts its 2011 stage version of Ashley’s hypnotic, ASMR-like soundscape, designed and directed by Kara Feely. 

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Automatic Writing Hunter Canning

Hamlet

  • BAM Harvey Theater / Oct 27 - Nov 5

During the 2020 lockdown, one of my most exciting theatrical experiences was on video. Berlin’s Schaubühne broadcast some key archive recordings, and you could watch decades of great German theater. One was director Thomas Ostermeier’s anarchic, multimedia, mind-blowing Hamlet, which has been touring the world since 2008. Six actor embody dozens of characters in a wonderfully dense and dangerous production that mirrors the prince’s madness. Playing the antic Dane is the fearless genius Lars Eidinger (currently in HBO’s Irma Vep).

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HAMLET c:Arno Declair

Downstate

  • Playwrights Horizon / previews Oct 28 / Nov 15

Contrarian playwright Bruce Norris (Clybourne Park) loves a challenge. Making liberals squirm? Check. Undermining assumptions about race? No problem. Now he faces a fresh task: Creating sympathetic portraits of four male sex offenders living in a halfway house in Illinois. The fantastic Pam MacKinnon stages this study of compassion and justice, originally premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater. 

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Downstate BROSILOW

Some Like It Hot

  • Shubert Theatre / previews Nov 1 / opens Dec 11

Know what would make Broadway feel normal again? A big-tent musical comedy with dazzling tunes, clever lyrics, and huge laughs. Fun, not preachy. We haven’t had one since 2019’s Moulin Rouge! The Musical. So lots of hopes are pinned on this adaptation of the 1959 Billy Wilder film. Yes, the plot hinges on two guys disguised as women, but we bet book co-writers Matthew López and Amber Ruffin can smooth any politically sensitive feathers. The fizzy score is by hitmakers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray) and we can’t wait to see what Adrianna Hicks does with the Marilyn Monroe role of Sugar. 

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Some Like It Hot Courtesy of company

A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical

  • Broadhurst Theatre / previews Nov 2 / opens Dec 4

The Great White Way welcomes a jukebox musical built around the distinctive, folk-pop catalog of Neil Diamond (a.k.a. the Jewish Elvis). Framed by therapy sessions as the aged Neil deals with existential crises, the action rewinds decades back to his start in the 1960s and eventual stardom. Expect the person sitting next to you to croon along with “I Am...I Said,” “America,” and, inevitably, “Sweet Caroline.” Will Swenson, as Neil in his prime, has been earning career notices for his uncanny channeling of raspy crooner Diamond. 

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A Beautiful Noise Courtesy of company

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