Arts & Culture

Forecast: The Upcoming Theater Season

BY Diana Barth TIMEFebruary 11, 2015 PRINT

The following are some highlights of forthcoming Broadway and off-Broadway productions:

Wendy Wasserstein’s Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning 1989 drama “The Heidi Chronicles,” originally presented at off-Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons, will play at Broadway’s Music Box Theatre. It is directed by Tony Award winner Pam MacKinnon and features Elisabeth Moss, Jason Biggs, and Bryce Pinkham.

Helen Mirren portrays Queen Elizabeth II in “The Audience” by Peter Morgan, a role for which Mirren won the Olivier Award on London’s West End as well as an Academy Award in Morgan’s film “The Queen.” Stephen Daldry directs.

“The Heidi Chronicles” was originally presented at off-Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons.

Opera diva and four-time Grammy Award winner Renée Fleming will make her legit Broadway debut playing a great opera singer in “Living on Love,” Joe DiPietro’s romantic screwball comedy based on Garson Kanin’s play “Peccadillo.” Directed by Kathleen Marshall, Fleming will be flanked by Douglas Sills, Anna Chlumsky, Blake Hammond, and Scott Robertson.

Manhattan Theatre Club will present Chicago’s famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of “Airline Highway,” the new play by Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa D’Amour, directed by two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello. Iconic burlesque performer Miss Ruby has requested a suitable funeral before she dies. So a ragtag group of strippers, hustlers, and philosophers boisterously honor her request.

In the musical arena, “Gigi,” currently playing at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., reaches Broadway on March 19. “An American in Paris,” inspired by the Academy Award-winning film, comes to Broadway’s Palace Theatre on March 13.

Off-Broadway offerings are lighter on one’s pocketbook and often delve into intriguing subjects not tackled in midtown venues, where, for financial reasons, well-attended hits must be assured:

Playwrights Horizons (PH) offers the world premiere of “Placebo,” a comedy by Melissa James Gibson, directed by Daniel Aukin. A scientist’s (Carrie Coon) lab work for a placebo-controlled study of a new female arousal drug evolves into blurry lines between perception and deception.

(L–R) Bryce Pinkham, Elisabeth Moss, and Jason Biggs star in a new production of the 1989 Tony Award-winning
(L–R) Bryce Pinkham, Elisabeth Moss, and Jason Biggs star in a new production of the 1989 Tony Award-winning “The Heidi Chronicles.” (Jason Bell)

“Iowa,” another PH production, is a new fanciful musical play by Jenny Schwartz (“God’s Ear”), music and lyrics by Todd Almond, oratorio lyrics by Ms. Schwartz. A mother and daughter move to Iowa to meet her mom’s soul mate, whom she found on Facebook—conclusion uncertain.

May rings in PH’s production of “The Qualms,” a new play by Bruce Norris (“Clybourne Park,” Pulitzer Prize winner), directed by Pam MacKinnon (director’s Obie for “Clybourne Park”). A free lifestyle among swingers wars against the idealism of a newly married couple overwhelmed by power and sexual politics.

Atlantic Theater Company offers the world premiere of “Posterity” by Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning author Doug Wright, who also directs. Here, Norway’s most celebrated sculptor (Hamish Linklater) is commissioned to create the last official portrait of famed writer Henrik Ibsen (John Noble). With Ibsen as a testy sitter, the two spar over “the nature of artistic success and the fear of being forgotten,” according to the company’s website.

In The Pershing Square Signature Center’s busy season, Charles Mee’s “Big Love,” directed by Tina Landau, concerns 50 brides fleeing 50 grooms to seek refuge in an Italian villa. A modern remake of the ancient “The Danaids” by Aeschylus, “Big Love” explores independence, tradition, and love, spiced by occasional pop songs and romantic dances.

Also at Signature is the New York premiere of “The Liquid Plain” by Naomi Wallace, directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah. It features two runaway African slaves in Rhode Island who plan a daring run for freedom. What follows is a brutal collision of worlds.

In April for a limited engagement, Signature brings the world premiere of a new play by Athol Fugard, the noted South African playwright.

Manhattan Theatre Club offers “The World of Extreme Happiness,” a new drama by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, directed by Eric Ting. An unwanted young Chinese woman seeks to escape rural life in China and forge a new identity in the city. A series of harrowing events cause her to question the system.

Downtown at the Public Theater, the musical “Hamilton” features Lin-Manuel Miranda doing double duty as playwright and the leading character, portrayed as a rebel, war hero, and loving husband caught in the country’s first sex scandal.

Off-Broadway offerings are lighter on one’s pocketbook and often delve into intriguing subjects.

The Public also announces the new play “Grounded” by George Brant, directed by Tony Award winner Julie Taymor, and featuring Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway as an ace fighter pilot.

At Theatre Row’s Beckett Theatre, The Actors Company Theatre is presenting “Abundance” by Beth Henley (Pulitzer Prize for “Crimes of the Heart”), her first play not set in the South. Two mail-order brides lured to the plains of Wyoming in search of new beginnings experience a dark side of America.

Directed by Merri Milwe, a rare New York revival of “Animals Out of Paper” by Rajiv Joseph, 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist for “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” performs at McAlphin Hall (West Park Presbyterian Church, 165 W. 86th St.). In an origami studio, the mysteries of life and love are investigated.

Robert Cuccioli and Angelina Fiordellisi star in a new version of Joe Pintauro’s drama “Snow Orchid,” directed by Valentina Fratti, at Theatre Row’s Lion Theatre. In 1964 Brooklyn, Rocco, returning home after having suffered a nervous breakdown, must face his wife and two sons who fear his instability.

Mint Theater Company, which specializes in discovering fine but forgotten plays, is presenting “Fashions for Men” by noted Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar (“Liliom,” later fashioned into the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “Carousel”), directed by Davis McCallum. In a classy men’s haberdashery in Budapest, the owner is deserted by his wife who steals his money and runs off with a salesman.

Limited space precludes mentioning all participants who received Tonys and other major awards. All of whom contribute to the excellence of New York theater, which promises a rewarding new season.

Diana Barth writes and publishes New Millennium, an arts newsletter. For information, see

Diana Barth
Diana Barth writes for various theatrical publications and for New Millennium. She may be contacted at
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