Theater archives

Rising Curtains: This Season’s Must-See Plays and Musicals

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Critic’s Pick: Ivo All Over

What do Arthur Miller, Tony Kushner, and Ayn Rand have in common? They’re distinctively American writers who have all been staged recently by the Belgian director Ivo van Hove. The director — known for minimalist, ultra-modern stagings and screens galore — has spent the last two years bringing a European perspective to especially American tales, from The Fountainhead to Angels in America. And he’s about to do it again: This month, van Hove’s production of The Crucible (opening March 31, Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 West 48th Street, comes to Broadway, starring Saoirse Ronan, Ben Whishaw, and Ciarán Hinds. It’s the director’s fourth New York production over the past year: Since September, he’s staged Antigone, the David Bowie musical Lazarus, and another Miller play, A View From the Bridge. But The Crucible is its own kind of complicated, an American classic rigged with American booby traps — racial caricature, hysterical women, the musty aroma of the high-school auditorium. Arthur Miller’s quasi-historical drama famously uses the Salem witch trials as a parable, reflecting on the runaway panic of the U.S. in the McCarthy era. Since its 1953 premiere, the play has been many things, from a Daniel Day-Lewis star vehicle to the flashpoint in an infamous downtown dispute in which Miller refused to permit the Wooster Group to adapt excerpts of the play. (It last played on Broadway in 2002, starring Laura Linney and Liam Neeson.) In the right directorial hands, Miller’s plea for rationality over prejudice and paranoia could resonate deeply in a country reeling from the meteoric rise of Donald Trump. Indeed, it might take van Hove’s outsider perspective to find a new vocabulary for this old chestnut. — Miriam Felton-Dansky

The Total Bent
Opens May 10
The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street,

The Public, often home to the next quirky, exciting new musical en route to Broadway (think Hamilton or Fun Home), welcomes back musician–theater artist Stew this May. His musical Passing Strange — the coming-of-age saga of a young African-American musician — played there in 2007 before moving to Broadway and racking up awards. Now, with co-creator Heidi Rodewald and director Joanna Settle, Stew brings audiences The Total Bent, a rock-gospel musical set in Alabama. — Miriam Felton-Dansky

Opens June 6
Claire Tow Theater, 150 West 65th Street,

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins emerged in 2014 as one of the smartest, most adventurous contemporary playwrights with An Octoroon, his revelatory deconstruction of American racial history. Since then, he’s tackled family drama (Appropriate) and the cutthroat publishing world (Gloria) and also won a prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize for drama. In May, LCT3 will stage War, his play about both family and history, which premiered at Yale Rep. Lileana Blain-Cruz, who is quickly becoming a go-to director for challenging new plays, directs. — Miriam Felton-Dansky

Bright Star
Opens March 24
Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th Street,

This Steve Martin musical is the kind of production Broadway was made for — and also the kind of production that was made for Broadway. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: There’s something charming about soaring ballads, unrestrained emotion, unapologetic spectacle, and aggressively feel-good storytelling. An accomplished banjo player, Martin showcases his musical talent in this tale about a woman finding love in the World War II–era American South. Edie Brickell collaborates on the music and story; Tony winner Walter Bobbie directs. — Heather Baysa

Richard II
Opens March 24
BAM Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton Street, Brooklyn,

The Royal Shakespeare Company returns to New York City with the U.S. premiere of Richard II, the first in their four-part series, “King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings.” David Tennant (Doctor Who, Broadchurch) stars as the ruthless monarch who sets the Bard’s tetralogy in motion, providing a glimpse into the psychology of a king preoccupied with maintaining the appearance of power. Light and video projections make for a sparse, modern production. — Heather Baysa

The Father
Opens April 14
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street,

Coming off successful runs in London and Paris, Florian Zeller‘s The Father here brings small-scale human drama to big Broadway stage. Three-time Tony recipient Frank Langella stars as André, an eighty-year-old ex–tap dancer struggling to stay in control of his body and memories. As both begin to unravel, he relies more and more on his daughter. Named the best play of the year by the Guardian, this restrained production depicts love and family loyalty at its least sentimental. — Heather Baysa

Daphne’s Dive
Opens May 15    
Signature Theatre, 480 West 42nd Street,

Hamilton and In the Heights director Thomas Kail brings to life this world premiere by Pulitzer winner Quiara Alegría Hudes (who authored the book for Heights). Set inside a North Philadelphia bar, Daphne’s Dive follows the owner, her adopted daughter, and a lively band of regulars, examining how against-the-grain families form and endure over time. Fraught with adversity but ultimately bonded by love and hope, this gang is more Cheers than It’s Always Sunny — despite the setting. — Heather Baysa

Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Opens April 27
American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd Street,

Who could have guessed that, after more than a decade away, Jessica Lange would return to Broadway for a Ryan Murphy–produced revival co-starring Michael Shannon? Expect total insanity, and then some, because this perfect storm is only going to escalate. Long Day’s Journey is just one of the star-powered selections in Roundabout’s fiftieth-anniversary season — and a fitting one, given the company’s past commitment to staging O’Neill. Jonathan Kent, who previously worked on Hamlet with Ralph Fiennes, directs. — Heather Baysa