6 Shows You Should See in February
Before the new Broadway season kicks into high gear, I wanted to highlight some of the exciting work happening off-Broadway. February's list of recommendations is all off-Broadway, with one concert event thrown in for musical superfans. It may be the dead of winter, but the theater in New York is scorching hot.
1. Beyond Babel (running until March 25)
Told through the burgeoning form of "narrative urban dance," this riff on Shakespeare finds Romeo and Juliet on opposite sides of a wall. Keone and Mari Madrid choreograph and lead the cast of this modern ballet. The Madrids are signed on to choreograph the forthcoming Britney Spears and Karate Kid musicals, and their distinctive brand of urban dance promises to majorly transform movement on the Broadway stage. This is an opportunity to see their work in an intimate off-Broadway setting before they become Broadway regulars.
2. Dracula and Frankenstein (running until March 8)
Classic Stage Company presents two new adaptations of classic horror stories in rep: Kate Hamill, best known for funny adaptations of Brit lit like Sense and Sensibility and Vanity Fair, sinks her teeth into Bram Stoker's Dracula. Jessica Frances Dukes plays Dr. Van Helsing, and Hamill plays the role of Renfield in an adaptation Hamill has described as "a feminist revenge fantasy." Meanwhile, Tristan Bernays has adapted Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for just two performers, in what promises to be an exhilarating demonstration of what can be accomplished in the theater. This is your midwinter monster mash.
3. Mack & Mabel (February 19-23)
The theater lost one of its most joyous voices in December: Jerry Herman, composer of Hello, Dolly! and La Cage aux Folles, died just before the New Year. Fans can celebrate his legacy by attending the Encores! production of his seldom-staged 1974 musical Mack & Mabel. Douglas Sills plays silent film trailblazer Mack Sennett and Alexandra Socha plays his muse, Mabel Normand, in this tribute to the early days of the silver screen. The show features the classic ballads "Time Heals Everything" and "I Won't Send Roses," which audiences might recognize from nights at Marie's Crisis. This is a rare opportunity to enjoy them in their natural habitat, with a big Encores! orchestra.
4. Cambodian Rock Band (running until March 15)
This award-winning play by Lauren Yee (The Great Leap) tells the story of Chum, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime, who returns to Cambodia for the first time in three decades as his daughter prepares to prosecute the war criminal Comrade Duch (Francis Jue). The story flashes back to the 1970s to show a younger version of Chum, then a member of a rock band and a potential target for the regime's brutal cultural purge. The play is backed by an actual rock band that plays Cambodian hits from the '70s as well as songs by the California-based band Dengue Fever. Expect a lot of conflicting emotions to spring from this one.
5. All the Natalie Portmans (February 6 – March 15)
With a title like this, how could you not be intrigued? The protagonist of the story isn't actually Queen Amidala, but 16-year-old Keyonna, who escapes the harsh reality of economic hardship through the cinematic fantasy worlds inhabited by her idol, Natalie Portman. But how will she react when all the Natalie Portmans start talking back to her? Kara Young, who has given excellent performances this season in The New Englanders and Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven, stars as Keyonna in this imaginative new play from C.A Johnson. I'm quite excited about the costumes!
6. Dana H. (February 11 – March 22)
This new solo show from Lucas Hnath (A Doll's House, Part 2) tells the true story of his mother's abduction by a patient when she was working as the chaplain of a psychiatric ward. One of my very favorite actors, Deirdre O'Connell, plays Dana in this unique play that mixes live performance with recorded audio. Hnath triumphed earlier this season with the low-tech terror of The Thin Place, a play that was conceived during a working session for Dana H. His collaboration with the Vineyard promises to be one of the hair-raising highlights of the season.