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8 Short Broadway and Off-Broadway Shows to Get You Home at a Reasonable Hour

Turns out, a 55-minute show can make for a satisfying evening of theater.

Look, I love a good theatrical marathon as much as the next geek. I did all of Angels in America in a day, twice. The Inheritance was no sweat. Even Wolf Hall Parts One & Two was relatively easy. But there's nothing I love more than being able to get home from the theater early, especially on work nights. Thankfully, there's a surfeit of surprisingly short shows now running on and off-Broadway that will not only have you in bed at a reasonable hour, but leave you feeling remarkably satisfied by your experience. Here's what New York City has on offer.

The cast of Six, now running at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
(© Liz Lauren)

1. Six

A big hit in London and across North America, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss's musical imagines the six wives of Henry VIII as pop princesses. Running a swift 80 minutes with no intermission, Six will not only have you in and out of the Brooks Atkinson Theatre before the sun finishes setting (if you see it this summer), but you'll even be able to take your kids and have them asleep by 10. No way? Yes way.

Janelle McDermoth in Young Jean Lee's We're Gonna Die at Second Stage.
(© Joan Marcus)

2. We're Gonna Die

Second Stage Theater tells you that Young Jean Lee's theatrical concert, directed by Raja Feather Kelly and starring Janelle McDermoth, is 65 minutes, but they're wrong. It's 55 minutes from start to finish! This life-affirming cabaret about death isn't for everyone, but if you're willing to go along for the ride, the powerful production will make you realize how hard you have to treasure the things that are the most important to getting home in time for the nightly news so you can hear how many people were infected with coronavirus today..

Isaac Powell as Tony in West Side Story.
(© Julieta Cervantes)

3. West Side Story

Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents's musical may have one of the most economical scripts ever written, but it's still a long show. Most productions run upwards of three hours. Not so for Ivo van Hove's new revival at the Broadway Theatre, which clocks in at a fast-paced one hour and 45 minutes. The director achieves this by cutting a lot (farewell, "I Feel Pretty" and the intermission), but it allows the piece to hurtle to its tragic conclusion without stopping for a breath. And you'll still be able to get on the train "tonight" and not tomorrow.

Deirdre O'Connell in Dana H. at the Vineyard Theatre.
(© Carol Rosegg)

4. Dana H.

Many years ago, the mother of playwright Lucas Hnath was kidnapped by a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. Her five-month captivity (which led to nearly three years of rebuilding her life on the run) is the basis for this harrowing 75-minute masterwork at the Vineyard Theatre, which features actor Deirdre O'Connell lip-synching to the real Dana Higginbotham's voice as she tells her story. The duration may be short, but the conversations you'll have over drinks after will last the whole rest of the night (and the nightmares will hit you in the days to come).

Jessie Mueller, Jeff Still, Austin Pendleton, Blair Brown, Ian Barford, Tracy Letts, Cliff Chamberlin, K. Todd Freeman, Armie Hammer, Danny McCarthy, and Sally Murphy in a promotional image for The Minutes.
(© Frank Ishman)

5. The Minutes

There are only 90 of them in Tracy Letts's mysterious new play at the Cort Theatre.

Sam Yates, Stanley Townsend, and Paul Muldoon collaborate on Incantata at the Irish Rep.
(© James Higgins)

6. Incantata

Pulitzer Prize-winning Irish poet Paul Muldoon brings a stage version of his epic poem of the same title to the Irish Repertory Theatre, where it's performed by actor Stanley Townsend and directed by Sam Yates. Written upon the death of Muldoon's longtime companion, Mary Farl Powers, this hour-long performance explores their relationship and her passing from cancer at the age of 43. Simultaneously lamenting the loss of his partner, while reaffirming what it means to love someone, Incantata is a highly emotional experience that runs through March 15.

Tom DeTrinis and Drew Droege collaborate on Happy Birthday, Doug.
(© Frank Mullaney)

7. Happy Birthday Doug

The hilarious Drew Droege (Bright Colors and Bold Patterns) premieres his latest bravura solo work at the SoHo Playhouse. A satire about middle and upper-class gay white male culture, the comedy is set during Doug's 41st birthday party, which is being attended by all of his favorite (and least favorite) pals, as well as the ghost of Oscar Wilde. It's nonstop laughter for a whole 60 minutes.

Christian Borle in Little Shop of Horrors at the Westside Theatre.
(© Emilio Madrid)

8. Little Shop of Horrors

In an era where high-tech, nearly three-hour musicals are de rigueur, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's Little Shop of Horrors is refreshingly the opposite: It's old-fashioned and just under two hours even with the intermission. Michael Mayer's new revival at the Westside Theatre is one of the hottest tickets in town, and it'll only get hotter when Jeremy Jordan joins the cast as Seymour on March 17.