mostly plays, mostly new york city & only $50 (or under)
LAST UPDATED: 9/18/2023
ALWAYS UPDATING! CHECK BACK REGULARLY!
Friends always ask me how I see so many plays that they’ve never even heard of. The long answer is, “I get recommendations, pay attention to playwrights whose work I’ve liked in the past and most crucially, I also subscribe to (and skim) many, many individual theater’s newsletters.” The short answer is, “It’s weirdly hard and annoying!” And EXPENSIVE.
This is a free newsletter, but it’s also an ever-updating landing page and a list of what I’m seeing, as well as what I’d like to see in-theater. But I am not a theater critic! Just a fan. And I’ll annotate when it feels right: a star* means I have tickets and a double star** means I [or a trusted friend] saw something and really enjoyed it. If something disappears from this list, wellllllll, it wasn’t that good. This letter will appear in your inbox when there’s enough worthy of an update. Otherwise, please check back! Now get out there and buy some theater tickets.
currently running (and about to run)
Psychic Self Defense by Normandy Sherwood (Sept 21 — 30, HERE)
Psychic Self Defense is a journey into abstraction, allowing audiences to experience the mystery and mental spaciousness by way of that most basic of theatrical machineries—the curtain reveal.
Ulysses adapted by Elevator Repair Service (Sept 21 – Oct 1, Bard’s Fisher Center, LUMA Theater)*
No Good Things Dwell in the Flesh by Christina Masciotti (Sept 6 — 23, ART)*
A master Russian tailor struggles to convince her assistant to take over her business. When her deranged ex-boyfriend tracks her down in her Astoria shop, she’s forced to reconsider what her legacy can be.
PROMETHEUS FIREBRINGER by Annie Dorsen (Sept 15 – Oct 1, TFANA)*
In Prometheus Firebringer, Dorsen uses the predictive text model GPT-3.5 (the same model that runs ChatGPT) to generate speculative versions of the missing story. Each night a chorus of AI-generated Greek masks performs a different iteration, while Dorsen engages the audience in reflections on power, knowledge, and doubt.
Mary Gets Hers by Emma Horwitz (Sept 11 — Oct 7, MCC)*
It’s the 10th century! A plague rages on in Germany! Everyone is turning into foam! When two overzealous hermits find an abandoned orphan named Mary, they scheme a saintly rescue mission to protect her purity at any and all costs. Mary, however, has other plans for herself, in this new play inspired by Hrosvitha of Gandersheim’s closet drama-comedy Abraham, or the Rise and Repentance of Mary.
JOB by Max Wolf Friedlich (Sept 6 — Oct 8, SoHo Playhouse)**
Jane, an employee at the big tech company (you know the one), has been placed on leave after becoming the subject of a viral video. She arrives in the office of a crisis therapist - Loyd - determined to be reinstated to the job that gives her life meaning. A psychological thriller, JOB zooms in on two careerists of different generations, genders and political paradigms to examine what it means to be a citizen of the internet and our obligation to help the people who need it most.
Zoetrope by Javier Antonio González (Sept 14 – Oct 8, Abrons Art Center)
Zoetrope tells the story of an underdog military postal officer with a dream. Until he dies. Then it tells the story of his ex-wife, her sister, his lover, their son, the playwright René Marqués, and El Grito de Lares––Puerto Rico’s one full day of independence.
Dig by Theresa Rebeck (Sept 2 – Oct 22, 59E59)
In a dying plant shop in a dying neighborhood, Roger receives a visitor from the past: Megan, the neighborhood screw-up, just out of rehab. He wants nothing to do with this disaster. Rebeck’s signature wit, intelligence, and depth brings us a riveting play that asks - can a soul beyond saving be saved?
Bite Me by Eliana Pipes (Sept 23 — Oct 22, WP Theater)
Bite Me explores the drama (and trauma) of trying to fit in at high school, and the unfinished business waiting for them at their reunion a decade later. This captivating dark comedy dares to explore the raw undercurrents of youth, and the unspoken truths that bind us.
To the Ends of the Earth / 땅끝까지 by Jeesun Choi (Oct 13 — 28, JACK)*
Two strangers - perhaps a mother and daughter, best friends, or even rivals - encounter each other in an unexpected place. They talk. They argue. They confess. They blame. They question. They tackle, again and again, the stories from their lives.
Helen. by Caitlin George (October 13 – 29, LaMaMa)
A wild adventure of paths crossing—of mothers and myths and memories and monsters—Caitlin George’s new play takes you on a journey whose experience is greater than the sum of its parts. Helen. invites you to leap into the unknown, and revel in the unexpected.
Jaja’s African Hair Braiding by Jocelyn Bioh (Sept 12 — Oct 29, MTC)
This dazzling world premiere welcomes you into Jaja’s bustling hair braiding shop in Harlem where every day, a lively and eclectic group of West African immigrant hair braiders are creating masterpieces on the heads of neighborhood women. During one sweltering summer day, love will blossom, dreams will flourish and secrets will be revealed. The uncertainty of their circumstances simmers below the surface of their lives and when it boils over, it forces this tight-knit community to confront what it means to be an outsider on the edge of the place they call home.
FARMHOUSE/WHOREHOUSE, an artist lecture by Suzanne Bocanegra (Oct 30, Skirball)
The first lecture in a four part series taking stage at NYU Skirball this season, Farmhouse/Whorehouse considers the lives of Bocanegra’s grandparents on their small farm in Texas. Starring actress Lili Taylor and directed by Lee Sunday Evans, Farmhouse/Whorehouse uses storytelling through multimedia to examine the idyllic place that the rural world occupies in urban imaginations.
Partnership by Elizabeth Baker (Oct 3 — Nov 12, Mint Theater Company)
Kate Rolling is the ambitious owner of a small fashion boutique in Brighton. When the owner of the largest shop in town proposes a merger on favorable terms—including matrimony—Kate sees an irresistible business opportunity. “Oh, don’t worry about me,” Kate assures her friends, “I never expected anything great in the way of love.” But isn’t romance most likely when it’s least expected? Elizabeth Baker’s charming comedy premiered in 1917.
Mikel Murfi Trilogy (The Man in the Woman's Shoes, I Hear You and Rejoice, The Mysterious Case of Kitsy Rainey) by Mikel Murfi (Oct 24 – Nov 18, Irish Rep)
Following his critically-acclaimed one-man shows The Man in the Woman’s Shoes (IAC, 2015) and I Hear You and Rejoice (IAC, 2018) comes the premiere of Mikel Murfi’s The Mysterious Case of Kitsy Rainey, completing the masterpiece trilogy chronicling his beloved Sligo through the wanderings of small town cobbler Pat Farnon.
Daphne by Renae Simone Jarrett (Oct 7 — Nov 19, LCT)
Daphne has left the city to live with her girlfriend Winona in the woods, and things in the house are beginning to sour. As the days slip through her fingers and a series of unsettling incidents make her question the boundaries of her reality, a strange transformation takes hold of Daphne’s body. DAPHNE is a surreal and moving new work about the stories we tell ourselves, and the moments we’re forced to choose between difficult truths and comfortable illusions.
Redwood by Brittany K. Allen (Oct 18 — Nov 12, Ensemble Studio Theatre)
When Steve Durbin goes down the rabbit hole of charting his family's genealogy, he makes an unwelcome discovery that throws the entire Durbin clan into turmoil. Chiefly: his niece, Meg, who's forced to reconsider her relationship with Drew, a white physicist. With acid, wit, love, and dance, Redwood ponders the project of interracial family-making in a haunted country.
Artificial Flavors by Steve Cosson (Oct 22 — Nov 19, 59E59)
In a novel collaboration between humans and AI, Artificial Flavors turns the hot topic of artificial intelligence into a theater experience like nothing else. Knowing that the stories we tell ourselves shape and influence what happens in society, what will happen when many of those stories are computer generated? Hosted by The Civilians’ Artistic Director Steve Cosson, parts of the show are generated live by the latest AI programs and immediately performed, creating an entirely different show every night.
Merry Me by Hansol Jung (Oct 11 — Nov 19, NYTW)*
On an island not far away from the vulnerable coasts of the enemy state, a mysterious blackout has left the Navy restless and itching for action. Lieutenant Shane Horne has occupied her time satisfying the libidinous needs of all the women on the base—including the jealous general’s wife. But her own merries will not… come. Meanwhile a famed Angel re-descends to amend her previous prophesy, sending the Navy’s psychiatrist on an epic quest to save humanity. Will the general discover the affair? Will the earth be saved? Will they ever be merry enough?
Covenant by York Walker (Oct 5 — Dec 3, Roundabout Theatre Company)
When a struggling guitarist returns to his small Georgia town a blues star, rumors begin swirling that he may have made a deal with the devil to attain his musical genius.
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (November 4 – December 3, TFANA)
Godot will be directed by Arin Arbus (Resident Director, TFANA) whose critically acclaimed productions for the company include her OBIE Award-winning staging of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth. This production will reunite actors Michael Shannon and Paul Sparks, who last worked together for TFANA in Ionesco’s The Killer, directed by Darko Tresnjak in 2014.
MANAHATTA by Mary Kathryn Nagle (Nov 16 – Dec 17, The Public’s Anspacher Theater)
Jane’s struggle to reconcile her new life with the expectations and traditions of her family and Nation are powerfully interwoven with the heartbreaking history of the Delaware Nation's expulsion from their land. Both old and new Manahatta converge in a lesson about the dangers of living in a society where there’s no such thing as enough.
festivals & series
BAM Next Wave Festival by Various (October 19 — January, 2024)*
Now that BAM has put the Under the Radar Fest on “temporary hiatus” (shame!! on!!! you!!! BAM!!!), Next Wave is the next best way (and still not as good of a way as Under the Radar!!!!!!) to see some smaller, cooler theater —like, HOW TO LIVE (after you die)** by Lynette Wallworth and FOOD** by not-broadway-favorite-writer-slash-performer, Geoff Sobelle.
theater over $50 & probably worth it
Infinite Life by Annie Baker (Aug 18 – Oct 8, Atlantic Theater Company)**
DruidO’Casey: Sean O’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy by Various (October 4 - 14, Skirball)
Not for the faint at heart, see three (3) full length shows in one day (The Plough and the Stars, The Shadow of a Gunman & Juno and the Paycock) that “drawing parallels between an Irish past and an international present.”
Swing State by Rebecca Gilman (Sept 8 — Oct 21, Minetta Lane Theatre)
Evenings on the prairie are relatively quiet for Peg, a recently widowed woman in rural Wisconsin who still cooks for two. Which doesn’t go to waste whenever Ryan, a dear friend with a troubled past, pays her a visit. However, after noticing her husband’s toolbox is missing, she places a call to the local authorities—unwittingly setting off a series of events that will forever reverberate through the small community.
The Creeps by Catherine Waller (Sept 1 — Nov 5, Playhouse 46)
Immerse yourself into the world of The Creeps where five dark, creepy and shockingly funny characters confront the shadowy depths of the human psyche, delving into macabre themes of fear, desire and the unknown. This one-woman production is written by and stars Catherine Waller, a multi-award winning actress and creator.
The Refuge Plays by Nathan Alan Davis (Sept 16 — Nov 12, Roundabout)
Late at night, deep in the woods of southern Illinois, a ghost tells Gail she will die within the next 24 hours. So begins The Refuge Plays, an epic tale that follows one Black family over 70 years. Written by Nathan Alan Davis, this bold reimagining of an American “family play” is full of humor, heart and surprises. Patricia McGregor directs.
Poor Yella Rednecks by Qui Nguyen (Oct 10 — Nov 26, MTC)
A young Vietnamese family attempts to put down roots in Arkansas, a place as different from home as it gets. A mom and dad balance big hopes and low-wage jobs, as old flings threaten to pull them apart. It all makes for a bumpy road to the American dream. From the world of Nguyen’s Vietgone, with its comic book and action movie influences, comes a play that melds a deeply personal story with the playwright’s trademark, killer humor.
Scene Partners by John J. Caswell, Jr. (Oct 26 — Dec 3, Vineyard Theatre)
Starring two-time Academy Award winner Dianne Wiest as Meryl, and directed by Tony Award-winning director Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown; Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812), John J. Caswell, Jr.’s (Wet Brain) Scene Partners is a wildly theatrical, hilarious, and genre-twisting gallop through the experience of a woman reborn.
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea by John Patrick Shanley (October 30 — Jan 7, 2024, Lucille Lortel Theatre)
Aubrey Plaza and Christopher Abbott star in John Patrick Shanley’s breakthrough play Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, a searing portrayal of the imperceptible space between joy and pain.
Quite a few theater companies have “Under 35” OR student discounts. I won’t be noting them here, but you should check for them when you’re buying tickets and you happen to be blessed with the gift of youth. (Or you have an active student ID.) Other ways to get cheaper tickets: sign up for the theater’s newsletter (they’ll often send out codes for discounts) or check TodayTix.
icymi, this is being shown at Bard, in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.
$50 if you have an AMEX! (Otherwise, $60.)
Get cheaper tickets with code: F&FPYRS