In the age of Netflix and chill, spending your leisure time seeing a play feels almost anachronistic. But theatre is alive and well in the United States and fortunately, you don’t have to be in New York to experience it.
“New York has done a great job of establishing itself as a theatre center,” said Jeff Loeb, Associate General Manager at Hollywood Pantages Theatre. “It’s part of the tourist infrastructure. But there is world-class theatre happening all over the country. In Los Angeles, there are hundreds of theatres where television and film actors perform in plays and musicals between gigs to hone their craft.”
Whether you’re more into Hamilton or Hamlet, we’ve gathered the most exciting theatre of all genres happening across the country in the next few months.
Grounded | Nov 19-Dec 13th, 2015
This gripping play about a female fighter pilot stationed in Nevada is finally being staged in the place that inspired it. George Brant’s one-woman play tells the story of a nameless soldier who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, leading her to be reassigned to operating a remote-controlled drone from Nevada. By day, she tracks an elusive target overseas. By night, she cares for her baby. All the while, she grapples with what it means to nurture a new life at home while hunting other lives abroad. Brant won the 2012 Smith Prize for his work dealing with American politics.
Tribes | January 8-24th, 2016
Appropriately, a theatre that calls itself “theatre by the community, for the community,” is staging Tribes, a play about the community we’re born into and the one we create. In a family of loudmouthed intellectuals, the youngest son, Billy, stands out, not because he’s un-intellectual, but because he’s deaf. He sits with his older siblings and parents at their dinner table in London, observing silently, as they argue about ideas and art. Then, one day, he meets Sylvia, a hearing woman born to deaf parents, who herself is now going deaf. Bringing this newcomer and ally into his home, causes the family to confront some of their long-held beliefs and assumptions. The Las Vegas Little Theatre will mount Nina Raine’s award-winning play in January.
Uncle Vanya | Oct 8-Dec 6th, 2015
This is not your pretentious college roommate’s Uncle Vanya. Annie Baker’s translation of Chekhov’s classic uses contemporary language to make this late 19th-century play feel fresh and relatable to a modern audience. As the Los Angeles Times puts it, “except for their country estate, their samovar and their Slavic patronymics, these characters could be our own family and friends.” As with all Antaeus productions, Uncle Vanya is double cast, meaning a completely separate set of actors appears in alternating performances. See it twice!
If/Then | Dec 8-Jan 3rd, 2016
Don’t let this one go! Idina Menzel, the quintessential Broadway-Hollywood hybrid superstar, appears in the touring production of If/Then at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. The musical follows the story (or more accurately, stories) of Elizabeth, a late-thirty-something urban planner who moves back to New York to restart her life. When she arrives in the city, she meets up with two friends. One suggests she call herself “Liz” and the other recommends that she become “Beth.” From then on, the show tells both possible versions of her new life, with plenty of crescendos along the way.
Predator Songstress | December 3-6th, 2015
The highly anticipated Predator Songstress comes from the Degenerate Art Ensemble, an experimental group of artists whose work is “an exorcism through collision and conflict challenging how we see audience, architecture, music, story, myth and reality.” Featuring co-founder and Japanese artist, Haruko “Crow” Nishimura, the piece is a modern-day fairy tale about a mythical totalitarian regime and one woman’s battle to overcome it. The music-driven fantasy was previously staged at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
Come From Away | Nov 13-Dec 13th, 2015
A musical about 9/11 might sound in poor taste, but Come From Away shows that it’s possible to bring out the humanity in tragedy through song. Based on a true story, this exciting new musical takes place in a small town in Newfoundland where 38 planes carrying 7,000 passengers were diverted after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The influx of people nearly doubles the town’s population, prompting the locals to pull together and provide supplies, housing and comfort to the disoriented travelers. The production is presented in association with La Jolla Playhouse, where the musical premiered last summer.
Stage Kiss | Dec 2-Dec 27th, 2015
It doesn’t get more meta than Stage Kiss. Sarah Ruhl’s playful farce follows the on- and off-stage romance of two actors with a past. He and She (the nameless protagonists) must put aside their own troubled romantic history to embody long-lost loves every night on stage. Soon, though, their stage kisses feel more and more like real kisses. The second act takes them off stage and back into the real world. The forty-something actors grapple with their ambiguous feelings and insecurities amid a gritty East Village apartment.
Equus | Jan 14-Feb 14th, 2016
Peter Shaffer’s modern classic about a boy with a pathological obsession with horses comes to the Constellation this winter. This 1973 play was revived in 2007 with Daniel Radcliffe as the troubled young man, Alan Strang, shedding both his clothes and his Harry Potter innocence. It begins in a mental hospital. Dr. Martin Dysart is dealing with his own inner demons when Strang is brought to him. Through hypnosis and a placebo “truth pill,” Strang and Dysart delve into the dark world of religion, obsession and delusion. When it premiered, the play won the Tony Award, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and the Drama Desk Award for Best Play.
Black Nativity | Dec 3-Dec 20th, 2015
Penumbra’s beloved annual production of Black Nativity: A Tradition of Love and Light is back. Langston Hughes’ retelling of the Nativity story features an entirely African-American cast accompanied by gospel spirituals. As Penumbra’s co-artistic director, Sarah Bellamy, told the Pioneer Press, “[Penumbra’s] season reflects our urgent need to consider the state of our nation and to determine how we can ensure the safety of all Americans.” This exuberant production is a thoughtful way to enter the holiday season with a spirit of giving, acceptance and joy.