Manhattan didn't crumble New Year's Eve, so everybody take the plunge and buy that Year 2000 installment for your date book and start planning your spring theatergoing season, because, as usual, there's so much going on in the Off-Off Broadway and independent theater scene that you just might have to quit your day job to catch it all. Here's a tiny sampling of the offerings:
North Atlantic. You know you're in the new millennium when a show set in the 1980s is referred to as a "period piece." Acclaimed Wooster Group members Willem Dafoe and Kate Valk appear in this satire of the military during the Cold War. Sounds as if the Wooster Group is up to its old tricks again, tossing together the latest in theatrical technology with the best of traditional dance forms and singing, this time in a piece set aboard an aircraft carrier, in order to see what conflicts might arise. North Atlantic had a sell-out run in the last millennium and now returns to the Performance Garage in January for an open run. Text by James Strahs, directed by Elizabeth LeCompte.
Incorporated: A Cinderella Story. Wonderfully non-linear, Collision Theory converts the raw data of their research into socio-political physical theater with a twist. In Incorporated: A Cinderella Story, a corporate fairy tale, they confront the "Millennial Giant: the corporate body, mind, vision and soul, "or lack thereof" as a rung on the ladder of the American Dream. In this world, Cinderella is the harried, hard worker who stays late, works overtime, and is good and nice and pretty. But don't expect any happily-ever-after's here, since being saved by the Prince isn't so much a helicopter ride out of the corporate melee but a horizontal move to yet another subdivision of hell. Founded by Stephanie Gilman and K. Tanzer, Collision Theory creates work that requires the overall interdependence of their company members, rather than focusing on one individual. Running at HERE, February 25 through March 12.
Why We Don't Bomb the Amish. I'm not sure when it became vogue to advocate the terrorism of particular religions in the title of your work, but Casey Fraser doesn't seem to fear retaliation (probably because the Amish will never come across it while surfing the web?). In this new solo show, Fraser promises to address such burning questions as, "What are United Nations office parties like?" and, of course, the question of the rather controversial title of the piece itself. A native New Yorker whose standup history includes appearances on Arsenio Hall and HBO, Fraser also promises to reveal the answers to all those questions that have been nagging you since you stopped worrying over the Y2K bug. Live music by Mark Wade and Ivan Rubenstein-Gillis, directed by Darren Press. Currently running at the St. Mark's Theater, through February 13.
the sadness of others, a situation comedy. This multimedia show, presented at La MaMA, "asks the question, 'are personal messages from your television set a schizophrenic fantasy, a marketing ploy, or merely a ticket home?'" Created by Mike Taylor, former co-artistic director of 3-Legged Dog, sadness... is an exploration of the things we create in order to worry about when our basic needs aren't met. Taylor's new production company, mixed mess@ge, is dedicated to the "phenomenological approach" towards communication, looking at performance as an act of revealing what's interesting beneath the muck of sensory overload, rather than the act of creating more muck to add to the mess. Running at La Mama, January 27 to February 13.
House Arrest. Always right on the heels of the latest catastrophe to challenge our nation's identity, Anna Deavere Smith does it again with House Arrest at The Public Theater, this time tackling the "myth, perception and reality of the American presidency." Never fear, if you can't stand one more comment about Monica's dress, rest assured that Deavere Smith would never subject her audience to anything less than a completely fresh and insightful take on what you thought the media had beaten to death. Running at the Newman Theater, beginning in March.
SqueezePlay. The Kitchen has commissioned this mélange of performances with accordionist Guy Klucevsek as the throughline. In a five-part presentation, Klucevesk collaborates with choreographers David Dorman and Claire Porter, performance artist Dan Froot, choreographer and filmmaker Victoria Marks, composer Mary Ellen Childs, and performance artist and miniaturist Dan Hurlin. Squeezeplay promises to be a boisterous experiment in collaboration. Running at The Kitchen, March 22 through April 1.
Leonard and Minky. Only in New York City can you find a ballet about cats in love that is narrated by a former mayor -- and not just any former mayor, but the ubiquitous Ed Koch. In fact, Leonard and Minky may be billed as an "enchanting tale for the entire family," but the whole thing sounds like a scream: Are we to expect future productions of The Three Little Pigs narrated by The Big Bad Wolf, Rudolph Guiliani? Not to be overshadowed by the former mayor, by the way, is writer and composer Joel Diamond, whose work has been heard at Carnegie Hall as well as in the films The Suicide Club and Welcome to the Dollhouse. John Selya choreographs and directs. Running at the Dance Theater Workshop, January 27 through February 13.
Wyoming. Three women escape from an institution and drive across America in search of what everyone driving across America is searching for, the State of Wyoming and redemption. Written by Catherine Gillet and directed by Jessica Bauman, even if the content doesn't grab you, consider the rest of the talent involved: The cast includes Rosalyn Coleman, last seen on Broadway in August Wilson's Seven Guitars, and Drama Desk Award-winner Trish Hawkins. Or, it might be just as fun to see what $100,000 worth of theater renovations looks like, as this was the reason given for the play opening on March 2 instead of way back in December. Running at the 78th Street Theater Lab, March 2 through March 26.