Theater

Center Stage: This Summer’s Must-See Theater Performances in NYC

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Founded in artistic director Ellie Cowan’s living room in 1986, Dixon Place has long been a leading cultivator of all things offbeat, outlandish, and avant-garde — a place where experiments are embraced and weirdness truly welcomed. This summer, the venerable downtown institution presents the 25th annual HOT! Festival (July 5–August 6, 161A Chrystie Street, dixonplace.org), billed as “the world’s longest-running annual LGBTQ festival” and featuring a dizzying array of theater, dance, comedy, music, and performance-art pieces reflecting the expansiveness of contemporary queer culture. The festival’s centerpiece, a new commission from multidisciplinary choreographer-musician Monstah Black entitled HYPERBOLIC! (The Last Spectacle), promises to be a queer fantasia on apocalyptic themes, with Black attempting to stage the last party on the planet. Black, who draws inspiration from underground club scenes, fashion, art, and musical forms ranging from Prince to the songs of the Southern Baptist church, describes the enticingly ominous event as “post-apocalyptic pretty-glam gore.” In keeping with the Dixon Place agenda of nurturing boundary-pushing performance, this year’s festival also features works in progress by playwrights, dancers, burlesque performers, and a digital theater collective — plus a new iteration of the curated series Little Theater. And if you’re hankering for old-fashioned storytelling, check out CAMPFIRE! Queer Storytime, hosted by the excellent burlesque performer World Famous *BOB* and “style icon” Dust Tea Shoulders. Or you can opt for the radical feminist comic Reno, who presents her spoken-word piece Ignorance Is No Excuse, Reno. With the HOT! Festival’s ambitious programming on the horizon, ignorance is no excuse for any of us. — Miriam Felton-Dansky

Shining City

Through July 3

This season, one of Conor McPherson’s loveliest, strangest, most terrifying plays comes to the Irish Rep. After breaking hearts last year with another McPherson (The Weir), the Rep returns to the well for this affecting psychological drama, which shifts shape as you watch it. Matthew Broderick stars, and while his slippery, contemporary manner seems just right for this thriller about therapy, we’re also excited to see Lisa Dwan, whose solo performances of Beckett’s micro-plays have met with rave reviews. Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street, irishrep.org — Helen Shaw

Out of the Mouths of Babes

June 7–July 17

Prolific playwright Israel Horovitz (The Indian Wants the Bronx, Park Your Car in Harvard Yard) debuts his latest comedy, which sounds a little bit like The Big Chill meets Nine: Four ex-loves of a dead centenarian convene in Paris to dispense their juiciest secrets. But honestly, plot, schplot — the real reason to start lining up is the presence of stars Judith Ivey and Estelle Parsons. These women are a theater royalty unto themselves. Barnet Kellman directs. Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street, cherrylanetheatre.org — H.S.

Shukshin’s Stories

June 8–11

Every summer, the Cherry Orchard Festival welcomes some major Russian production to City Center. This year, it’s Shukshin’s Stories, from the Theater of Nations, starring that institution’s artistic director — and titanic Moscow theater star — Evgeny Mironov. Happily, the evening (adapted from Soviet-era short stories) is also directed by Alvis Hermanis, a Latvian whose image-rich work on Brodsky/Baryshnikov served as a reminder that some of the world’s great directors only rarely come to our shores. Don’t miss him. New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, nycitycenter.org — H.S. 

The Healing

June 11–July 16

Award-winning dramatist Samuel D. Hunter took Playwrights Horizons by storm in 2012 with his achingly humanist duet The Whale, reducing many spectators to tears. Now, Theater Breaking Through Barriers, a collective radically inclusive of actors with disabilities, presents Hunter’s bittersweet drama about the long recovery of a group of friends reuniting two decades after a camp counselor told them to pray the pain away. The Clurman Theatre, 412 West 42nd Street, tbtb.org — H.S.

Oslo

June 16–August 28

Too few playwrights actually grapple with international politics, so it’s worth rejoicing that Oslo, the new drama by J.T. Rogers (Blood and Gifts), chooses to dramatize the back-channel talks that led to the 1993 Oslo peace accords. And just in case you need a bit of glamour with your negotiations: The ravishing Jennifer Ehle and slinky Jefferson Mays play married diplomats in a cast that also features Daniel Oreskes and the diabolically gifted T. Ryder Smith. Uptown treasure Bartlett Sher directs them all. Lincoln Center Theater, Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, 150 West 65th Street, lct.org — H.S.

Tumacho

June 27–July 9

Thanks to Maria Striar’s organizing principle of prioritizing the “funny, strange, and provocative,” Clubbed Thumb’s Summerworks Festival never fails to turn up some surprises. This year’s lineup, a trio, looks tempting (there are also plays by Julia Jarcho and Olivia Dufault), but the most intriguing prospect might be Tumacho, a “play-with-music” by Obie winner Ethan Lipton (No Place to Go). The spoofy, goofy western has a ridiculously good cast, topped by Danny Wolohan and Jeremy Shamos, two of the funniest joke-slingers east of the Rockies. The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street, clubbedthumb.org — H.S. 

Privacy

July 5–August 14

You may have to fight past an army of Potter-heads, but it’ll be worth a few stray wand-blasts to get into this provocative Daniel Radcliffe vehicle opening at the Public. A co-production with London’s Donmar Warehouse, Privacy originated with playwright James Graham and director Josie Rourke interviewing a stack of journalists and politicians about online security in the age of Snowden. Is there any better place than a theater to think about the ramifications of always being watched? The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, publictheater.org — H.S. 

Lincoln Center Festival

July 13–31

The yearly culture-palooza at Lincoln Center Festival can usually be trusted to introduce audiences to something stupendous. This year, it’s stuffed with visits by master theatermakers: Jonathan Pryce plays Shylock in Shakespeare’s uneasy treasure The Merchant of Venice; the all-woman Japanese company Takarazuka unleashes its first-ever New York performance; the Kanze Noh troupe performs its long-lived repertory; and Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme arrives courtesy of Paris’s Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord. It’s like a whole MFA program in three weeks. Various Lincoln Center venues, lincolncenterfestival.org — H.S. 

Cats

July 14

Jellicle cats come out tonight! Who knows what that means? Nobody! Not Andrew Lloyd Webber; not T.S. Eliot, who wrote about them in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats; not the legions of fans who watched Lycra-clad cat-dancers in the Eighties and mourned for poor Grizabella’s faded glory; not even actual felines themselves. But perhaps you’ll be the one to figure it out when super-behemoth hit Cats returns to Broadway after two decades away. Rarely has something seemed like such a bad and fantastic idea at the same time. Neil Simon Theatre, 250 West 52nd Street, catsthemusical.com — H.S. 

Quiet, Comfort

August 11–26

After several years as the artistic director at Jack, the gifted artist Alec Duffy (Three Pianos) finally gets back into the director’s chair, and the outing promises to be a doozy. His company, Hoi Polloi, has commissioned Japanese superstar playwright Toshiki Okada to write the new Quiet, Comfort, and if Okada’s past work (God Bless Baseball, Five Days in March) is any indication, it’ll be worth delaying an August vacation to stick around for. Need any more convincing? Mimi Lien, MacArthur Fellow and theatrical miracle-worker, designs the set. Jack, 505 Waverly Avenue, Brooklyn, jackny.org — H.S. 

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