What plays have you seen recently that are interesting?

I looked around and it doesn’t seem we have a theater thread. In the before time I used to make it out to NYC once or twice a year to see some plays. I finally made it back for the long weekend and have had pretty good luck with our picks.

Just saw “POTUS” tonight. Can’t reccomend it enough. It was sharp and hilarious. My favorite of the trip so far. So good. All the women in the ensemble were great. We even got cheap same day rush tickets that were great seats in the orchestra for under $40 bucks.

Last night was “How I Learned to Drive”. Also very good, though creepy AF. The play is basically a middle aged woman recounting how her uncle groomed her when she was a teenager. Mary Louise Parker headlined. David Morse, who is a solid character actor, plays the uncle. I thought both were excellent. It was interesting and powerful, and the aforementioned creepy.

Also saw “Birthday Candles” with Debra Messing. Story of a woman from teenager to old age told through a repeated scene of her and her family getting ready for her birthday party on different years. A bit of a sappy tear jerker at times. Well done and well acted. Quite enjoyable but probably won’t be memorable.

Got Plaza Suite and Hangmen on the agenda next.

Any playgoing qt3ers out there have recent play reccomendations? In general, and specifically in NYC?

A touring company came through town recently doing “Come From Away” the musical about the town in Canada that all the trans Atlantic flights had to stop in on 9-11. It was way better than it had any right to be.

The last thing we saw was The Adams Family musical last fall. Some funny parts but it is pretty hard to recommend the whole thing.

I saw Come From Away back before the pandemic. It really was a fantastic show. I’m not normally big on musicals but it’s such an uplifting story and was well put together.

Loved Come from Away. The songs were great, but oddly unmemorable.

My synopsis of Les Miserables came up in my Facebook memories from 2018 and I dusted off my blog to save the post for posterity. One thing about that play, you can’t say the name doesn’t warn you about how it’s going to make you feel.

I’m not in NYC, so these are FAR off Broadway.

Witch, written by Jen Silverman: Set in a 17th-ish small villiage where the Devil comes to make offers for souls. Dialog heavy and darkly comedic exploration of stated and unstated desires. Great show. Google search shows its being produced elsewhere, so go see it.

Stede Bonnet: A F*cking Pirate Musical by Nicole Neely. Apparently we saw the world premier, and I really wanted to like this. It was a profane, musical version about Stede Bonnet, the same guy as in Our Flag Means Death. While it was funny at times, and the reviews were very good, it didn’t hook me.

Going back a bit, I saw Spirits to Enforce by Mickle Maher in 2020 just before the pandemic. So in this play there are Superheroes on a secret submarine in the bay. What are they doing there? Putting on a telethon so they can produce Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The Superheroes really do not interact, as all the dialog is them talking to unseen callers, quick cutting between the conversations. This play was WTF, but 2 years later I still remember it. Recommended if produced near you.

We subscribe to two theater companies in DC that produce new plays, so I see a lot of work by emerging playwrights. One of the best things I’ve seen in years is John Proctor is the Villain by Kimberly Bellflower. It’s about the teaching of The Crucible to an honors lit class in a high school in rural Georgia, and it’s brilliant across several dimensions the way the best plays are. My wife and I were comparing it with Stoppard, it was so good.

We saw the musical Strange Loop here and now it’s got a Pulitzer and is doing well on Broadway. It’s imaginative and fun and the songs are good, but this is like the third musical I’ve seen about the struggle to write a musical.

Another outstanding contemporary playwright is Dana Gurira. She’s a wonderful and beautiful actress on Walking Dead and i Black Panther, but I think her best work is writing for the stage. One of her plays, "Eclipsed*, made it to Broadway a few years back. We’ve seen three of her plays performed and all have been excellent.

High praise indeed. Will have to look for it.

Caught the Sunday matinee of Hadestown at the Temple Buell theater in Denver. I knew a few songs casually, and the basic premise. And actually, I had heard Anais Mitchell play some songs solo back around 2012 when she opened for a Josh Ritter show. Would never have imagined they’d be in a Tony-award-winning show ten years later.

Anyway, Mitchell’s created a smart and original adaptation of the Orpheus story–melding it with a 1930s-ish industrial aesthetic–with some good music, great orchestration, and played by an incredible, energetic band in this touring company. Extra fun that all the musicians except the drummer are onstage throughout the performance. It’s a lean, mean ensemble, with a particularly gifted trombonist who had a number of special parts in the production. The cast was solid–particularly Kevyn Morrow as Hades and Levi Kreis as Hermes. They switched players for Orpheus about a month ago, and then we got that actor’s understudy, so in a way we got the understudy of the understudy, which I think is why the rest of the cast seemed particularly excited for him at the end of the show. He did great, in a role that asks him to channel some Jeff Buckley-esque range.

The other highlight was the set design, which looks like a New Orleans dive bar that cracks open in places to reveal slices of a steel factory. They do some intense and creative stuff with lighting and make good use of a turntable on the stage, particularly in Act II.

Overall, it’s a thoroughly engaging show, smartly composed and joyfully performed. I’m looking forward to some time with the cast recording now that I’ve got visuals to go with the songs. I have a feeling there’s a lot of thematic threads I missed in this first full experience with it.

Just saw Heroes of the Fourth Turning by Will Arbery (Vox article on original production that gives some background) which is a quite interesting if a little dramatically under-cooked play about very committed Catholics confronting personal issues and the political moment in 2017 (particularly of interest to @Nightgaunt ?) The characters are returning to their conservative Catholic college in empty Wyoming to see a favorite professor installed as president. They all have a highly-educated, sophisticated view of their faith and its role in the contemporary world, each with a different perspective, from a Stephen Bannon-admiring movement conservative to monastic to liberal-adjacent. The characters interact in different combinations and their different world-views are challenged and critiqued. There are what I considered some remarkable twists towards the end.

There is very little mention in the play of the Church as an institution, with a hierarchy and property; the pope is barely referenced. Catholicism is treated almost entirely as an intellectual and spiritual position which the play endorses in general.

I liked the play a lot, my wife less so. We both thought that the play was somewhat reminiscent of Neil LaBute. My wife suggested that my position of privilege made the characters’ staunch anti-abortion stand less threatening to me, which is probably true.

The play definitely reminded me of my sole visit to the St, Thomas Aquinas society when I was at Princeton. Definitely an interesting view of the kind of environment from which Amy Coney-Barret emerged.

Oh, I’ve heard about this play but haven’t had the chance to see it! I think I listened to a podcast with the playwright. It definitely seems to have its finger on the pulse of the discourse within Catholic intellectual circles right now, and the peculiar ideology that is both kind of radical and conservative at the same time. Would love to see it some day.

… Oh wow! I’m so glad you brought this up, antlers! Turns out there’s a troupe presenting it in Denver, like, right now! I guess I probably will get to see it!

Thanks to antlers, I found out that Heroes of the Fourth Turning was being presented in Denver for the next few weeks, and my college-age kid and I went to see it this afternoon! (Shout out to the Curious Theater Company!)

We both thought is was really good. It’s one of those “here’s a handful of characters with different philosophies, different desires, and different circumstances… let’s watch them interact in various combinations and see what sparks fly.” And the characters are interesting, both intelligent and flawed, conflicted, and opinionated.

This was a bit of an issue for me, just because I think it would have come up more often in the circumstances of the play. A bunch of Catholic conservatives are TOTALLY going to have things to say to each other about Pope Francis! The play isn’t afraid to engage with relatively recent real-world events–it’s set soon after Trump is elected and just after Charlottesville. There was definitely Stuff going on in the Catholic-sphere then. And you would definitely see a variety of attitudes toward it all from characters like these.

There were some political opinions spouted by some characters that caused literal gasps and/or quiet retorts from my audience, which was amusing. Some of the audience members declared the play “exhausting,” and while it was two hours and fifteen minutes without an intermission, I think it’s also because of the challenging and often frustrating ideas on display.

@antlers – If this is something you’re interested in getting deeper into, you might like the interview with the playwright on Know Your Enemy, a left-wing podcast that studies and assesses the right wing.

Just got to see Tom Stoppard’s new play, Leopoldstadt, on Broadway. The play follows the fortunes of a wealthy and well-connected Jewish family in Vienna from the turn of the 20th century to 1955. Leopoldstadt is the name of the Jewish ghetto in Vienna, from which the Jews were liberated within living memory at the start of the play-- and to which they were forced to return in 1938.

The play as a multi-generation saga is quite an ambitious work for the stage, but the production manages it skillfully (I was particularly impressed with the child actors who maintained convincing characters in a live stage show). With its sprawling cast, it is not really a play that a regional theater could pull off-- so if you want to see it, you’ll have to see it on Broadway or in a big touring production (if those materialize). I suspect a film adaptation is inevitable-- or in this era of prestige television it is easy to imagine the basic story adapted to an 8-hour limited series (and without feeling padded, although the original is a brisk 2 hours 10 min).

Stoppard really knows how to write a play and that is on display here, with deftly managed tension and the interweaving of dramatic threads. The play is also personal for Stoppard, reflecting his discovery as an adult of his own Jewish roots; one of the characters, evacuated to Britain as a child and thinking of himself as entirely British, is clearly a stand-in for the author. Although obviously concerned with the Holocaust and the other tragedies of the first half of the 20th century, these happen off-stage and outside the specific times depicted in the play’s scenes-- which take place almost entirely in the drawing room of the family home in Vienna.