Shows open, receive high praise, and end their runs before you get a chance to buy a ticket. This is especially true off- and off-off-Broadway, where tight season schedules and inflexible rental agreements can mean that even a sold-out show must close. Luckily, New York audiences this season will have the opportunity to see multiple highly acclaimed shows in return engagements. Many of them are coming back for longer runs in larger houses. Half had their initial runs at Brooklyn's theatrical crystal ball, the Bushwick Starr. While you may have missed them back then, you definitely should catch these six shows their second time around.
1. Tiny Beautiful Things (September 19-November 12)
Based on the popular book of advice by Cheryl Strayed, this tiny beautiful drama sold out the Shiva Theater when it played there last winter with a cast led by adapter Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Physically embodying their anonymous emails, advice seekers emerge from the shadows of Strayed's kitchen, beseeching her council as advice guru "Dear Sugar." She does her best to guide them through their problems with practical advice from her own regularly wayward life. Vardalos will lead a mostly new cast in the Public's much larger space, the Newman, which is incidentally where Tiny Beautiful Things director Thomas Kail helmed a little show called Hamilton during its initial off-Broadway run.
2. Ghost Quartet (October 5-31)
Dave Malloy (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) is the composer of this ambitious yet intimate song cycle that was presented at the Bushwick Starr in 2014. It interweaves four stories told by four actors (and spans seven centuries) in just 100 minutes. Those who saw The Great Comet on Broadway or caught the brief run of Malloy's Rasputin musical Beardo last season know that Malloy is one of the most exciting and innovative young composers working today. You won't want to miss this highly acclaimed piece featuring Great Comet stars Brittain Ashford and Gelsey Bell. Ghost Quartet opens New York Theatre Workshop's "Next Door" season at the Fourth Street Theatre, a new home for small companies producing their own work.
3. Stuffed (October 5-Open Run)
Comedy's lovable queen of mean, Lisa Lampanelli, is back with this confessional show about food. It features four women of different body types hanging out (and chowing down) while telling stories about persistent weight and body issues. Lampanelli, who wrote the play, also stars alongside three brand-new actors (including Nikki Blonsky of the 2007 Hairspray movie) for this run at the Westside Theatre (it was originally presented by WP Theater last fall). If you're looking for a play that isn't tied to one straightforward plot but instead feels more like story time with your four best friends, this is the show for you.
4. The Wolves (November 1-January 7)
Sarah DeLappe's comedy-drama about a girls' soccer team became a surprise hit during last year's ever-extending production with the Playwrights Realm. It features a 10-woman cast, only distinguished in the program by numbers (rather than names), but easily distinguished onstage by their idiosyncratic personalities. TheaterMania proclaimed it "a picture of female camaraderie in its most authentic form." The performances were so uniformly good that the cast went on to win the 2017 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble. Nearly the entire cast is transferring with director Lila Neugebauer's production to the Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center Theater, where you can once again get into the game.
5. Miles for Mary (January 11- February 4)
This is another brilliant ensemble piece directed by Lila Neugebauer. It stars the Mad Ones (the scrappy off-off-Broadway company Neugebauer helped found) as a committee of Ohio schoolteachers planning a charity event circa 1988 (Asta Hostetter's costumes are particularly on point). Anyone who has ever attended a meeting undergirded mostly by jargon and passive-aggression will instantly recognize the territory explored here, which is presented with such comic dexterity and commitment that you may end up with tears of laughter in your eyes. It delighted audiences at the Bushwick Starr last October and November (when its brand of no-holds-barred mirth was much needed in a brutal election season). It is now set to ride again at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Playwrights Horizons.
6. [Porto] (January 29- February 25)
Kate Benson is the author of this hilarious comedy about a Brooklyn woman who meets a handsome stranger at her local bourgie watering hole, forcing her to reconsider the relationship between her values and her desires. Benson provided the simultaneously rich and severe voice-overs for the original run at (where else?) the Bushwick Starr last winter, which gave audiences the feeling of watching a high-concept nature documentary. Director Lee Sunday Evans will return along with this engagement at WP Theater, a definite highlight for February.