7 Shows to See in the Outer Boroughs of New York City
From family-friendly fare to experimental shows about our horrifying dystopian future, there's theater for everyone in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.
Times Square is undoubtedly the epicenter of the American stage, but there's a big wide world of theater in New York beyond the island of Manhattan. In fact, some of the most interesting shows this fall are just a subway ride away from 42nd Street. We've highlighted seven from the four outer boroughs of New York. Santa Claus, whiskey, robots, and jazz-age British adultery are some of the treasures that await once you escape from Manhattan.
Every fall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music hosts the Next Wave Festival, which is always a cornucopia of groundbreaking, genre-defying performance. This show particularly caught our eye: Lars Jan presents a multimedia lecture about the terrifying and fascinating future that awaits after the collapse of the nation-state. BAM describes the hour-long event as "part TED talk, part televangelism, part new-performance frontier."
For years the Bushwick Starr has been hosting quality experimental theater, like last year's Roosevelvis. This song cycle from Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 composer Dave Malloy promises to be similarly immersive, but in a far more intimate setting. Musicians seated among the audience tell four interwoven stories spanning seven centuries, all while serving you whiskey. What better reason do you need to ride the L train?
Attention actors of New York: As we asserted in this recent piece about Walt Disney World, the robots are coming for your job. That's happening already (partly) at Williamsburg's Brick Theater, where two human actors will star opposite RoboThespian in Francesca Talenti's The Uncanny Valley. A mechanized performer created by the Cornwall-based Engineered Arts Limited, RoboThespian is now in its third generation, with an ultimate goal of being indistinguishable from living actors. Appropriately, Talenti's Faustian story revolves around a man who agrees to upload his personality to a robotic doppelganger in exchange for great wealth and a fresh start. Might we humbly suggest a revival of Karel Čapek's R.U.R., featuring an all-robot cast?
This world premiere drama tackles the difficult issue of suicide among American military veterans and the grief of surviving family members. "I was interested in how grief would travel through time, how it would resurface, evolve," writes playwright Cody Daigle. Founded in 2001 by Sue Scannell and Brian J. Swasey, Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC) has distinguished itself as Queens' premier venue for innovative plays and underappreciated musicals, including last year's production of Blood Brothers and this year's Allegro.
Nestled within Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens Theatre (formerly the 1964 New York World's Fair's "Theaterama") hosts a return engagement of Sandy Rustin's sex farce, which made its world premiere last year at APAC. While it's a new play, there is a familiar setting: the English countryside of the 1920s. The play begins when Sylvia Van Kipnes decides to come clean about her affair with her brother-in-law Beau. This love triangle quickly transforms into a more complex polygon as the web of infidelity expands to include ex-husbands and secret girlfriends.
The creation of music director Todd Ellison (Annie), this one-night concert (the latest in an ongoing series) brings Broadway talent up to CUNY's Lehman College. This new installment will feature Ashley Blanchet (Beautiful), Gavin Lodge (Annie), and Klea Blackhurst (Everything the Traffic Will Allow) singing their favorite Broadway showstoppers. You can see it all without ever having to go below 195th Street.
Staten Islanders who don't want to come into Manhattan to see the Rockettes will find a nice substitute in this Christmas revue, which has scenes from the North Pole, Central Park, Lincoln Center, and Times Square. New Yorkers will find it worth the ferry ride just to see the fantastic baroque embellishments of the theater including multiple murals, tiled fountains, and two large statues flanking the proscenium. It's one of the true theater gems of New York City, rivaling the magnificence of any house on Broadway. In fact, the stage of the St. George Theatre doubled as Broadway's Shubert Theatre (home of Heaven on Earth) on NBC's Smash.