As you read this, there are hundreds of plays being performed Off- and Off-Off-Broadway in New York City. In churches, store fronts, basements, bars, closets, cafetoriums, drawing rooms, restaurants, entry halls, bedrooms, supper clubs, maybe a tiny theater or two, and any other space that can hold a few chairs, someone is acting their heart out, hoping against hope to attract enough attention to keep going.
Since April of 2018, we’ve written one hundred thirty-seven reviews of works chosen almost entirely at random. We saw things that were absolutely amazing (some playing only once), competing with dozens of other performances going on every minute. An enormous amount of superb theater work is vanishing every day. We need to keep a record.
This book is a small beginning, a miniscule selection of the vast number of dramas, comedies, musicals, readings, improvisations, concerts and operas available to us every day—certainly, an embarrassment of riches.
Most of these works will be forgotten; a few, won't. For a moment in 2018, however, each one came alive, with mind blowing concepts and performances by some of the most skilled talent in the world. I hope I’ve been able to capture the brilliance of some of those shining moments in these pages. All of these plays need to be recorded, enjoyed and remembered.
Hundreds of plays are being performed Off- and Off-Off-Broadway every day. 2019 saw the rise of #MeToo, with new female scenarios focusing on discrimination and abuse. We caught up on Shakespeare with Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, and an all-female Troilus and Cressida. We were thrilled by the Greeks, with new operas based on Oedipus Rex and The Bacchae, including the fascinating Comedian’s Tragedy, a new play in the Grecian style exploring Aristophanes’ mid-life crisis. Aaron Posner, Max Wellman, and Neil LaBute, brilliant modern authors were honored in festivals,as were the greats Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller.
Musicals came out of the woodwork. Bat Out of Hell and Spring Awakening explored the versatility of Rock ’n Roll, with We Are the Tigers, I Spy a Spy, and the stunning Jilted to Perfection, offering a more orthodox approach. The incomparable Gilbert and Sullivan were still with us, reminding us how much our theatrical traditions owe to their genius. Add The Cradle Will Rock, perhaps the most politically charged work in theatrical history, and the technologically advanced Looking at You, possibly the most remarkable musical produced all year, and you have a season of Independent Theater almost impossible to describe.
Reviews on these works can be found inside, along with countless new plays and playwrights that deserve attention. We believe we’ve provided a clear picture of performance art that should be treasured. If you’re interested in the theater, this book is for you.