Going to the Theater

Friday, April 23, 2010 - 05:18 PM

I'm going to the theater more often than I used to.

One show I saw last week was the Ma-Yi Theater Company's "Rescue Me (A Post-modern classic with snacks)," a loose, fanciful adaptation of the ancient play "Iphigenia in Taurus" by Euripides. Another was "Sondheim on Sondheim," and it was lovely to hear those great songs beautifully and movingly sung.

My wife keeps finding theater for us to see, including unusual and reasonably-priced plays at Ensemble Studio Theatre and Signature Theatre Company. What plays, musicals, or theater groups do you recommend?

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Comments [4]

Kenneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

Outside of the colleges, universities, conservatories and museums such in NYC as Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Hunter College, New York University, Columbia University, the Frick Collection and the "Metropolitan Museum of Art, where good talent, well-chosen and well directed can be enjoyed in surroundings that are commodious and do not distract from the presentation, there is no inexpensive route to travel except the Off Broadway Theater. The financial investment in tickets for Off Broadway Theater makes the gamble as to each production's own individual merit no big deal and it helps those freelancing artists, graduated and on their own and also some top talent experimenting.

May. 05 2010 08:13 PM
Harry from Brooklyn

I've been an avid theatre-goer since my college days -- often two or three times a week. I am always looking for something new and provocative, spending almost all my time Off Broadway.

It used to be a lot cheaper, of course, but I also bought season subscriptions without knowing what would be produced. The major non-profits were run by artistic directors with clearly defined styles and visions. Joe Papp at the Public would give you in-your-face political theatre, like his first production, HAIR. Marshall Mason at Circle Rep would give you poetic realism, typified by Marshall Mason. Ellen Stewart at La Mama offered the European avant garde, like Andrei Serban. Lynne Meadow at Manhattan Theatre Club promised highly polished productions of traditional theatre, such as not-quite house playwright Terrance MacNally.

For a wide range of reasons -- TDF recently published a book-length study of the problem -- the connection of playwrights and house style has been severed. High prices shrink audiences and, more significantly, shrink the willingness of producers to gamble on new work. So aspiring playwrights and song writers are compelled to go through a maze of workshops, college productions, regional try-outs, and other "trial" productions before their work reaches a wide audience.

There's a parallel problem for the audience. When a ticket cost $5, I often went out of curiosity. If the show fell flat, well, you never know what will work till you try. If the show took off, I'd later look for the playwright, director, and actors elsewhere.

When it costs $50, I want to see some names I recognize on the menu. And that's no guarantee. For instance, I bought a subscription to the MCC company when they offered FIFTY WORDS, written by Peter Weller and starring Norbert Leo Butts and Elizabeth Marvel -- three artists I admire enormously. They delivered, in spades: it was arguably the finest drama of the season. The audience sat in silence, taking its own time to rise and walk home.

More recently, MCC subjected me to FAMILY WEEK. Three artists I admire -- Beth Henley, Jonathan Demme, Kathleen Chalfant -- on what can only be called the wrong road. The characters are so self-centered, so insenstive, so out-and-out BORING, that the 70 minutes seemed like 70 days.

Nonetheless, I have renewed my subscription. Every producer must have the freedom to fail, or she (or he) will never give us new work. If I want to see provocative new theatre, I have to take some of the risk myself.

I have a long history with MTC, the Public Theatre, 2nd Stage, NYTW, and other groups. I have forgiven their occasional flops, which are heavily outnumbered by plays that were provocative failures or important landmarks, or out-and-out hits.

I saw A CHORUS LINE in previews.

Apr. 26 2010 12:43 AM
Mary Ellen from New York

Hi to you, David, from me and Walter tonight. We don't need to go to any theater this weekend after hearing the incredibly dramatic and beautifully played Tempest music by -- Matthew Locke! I don't think I've ever heard of him -- and I was sure it was Purcell! I'll make a point of hearing more Locke.
Thank you for the wild ride of our lives! Or at least of the weekend!

Apr. 23 2010 08:08 PM
Yaakov Shechter from Manhattan

What a wonderful idea! I love theatre, but can't afford the prices. TDF is, of course, one good option, but I would like to find more companies.

Apr. 23 2010 07:38 PM

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