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The Best of Off Broadway: Our Members Pick Their Favorites

This Sunday, the 26th Annual Lucille Lortel Awards will honor excellence in the Off-Broadway theatre. The Off-Broadway League partners with the Lucille Lortel Foundation and TDF to present the awards, and the ceremony is always a star-studded good time. In the spirit of the weekend, we asked TDF’s members for their favorite moments from this season Off Broadway.

We got an enormous response, with members extolling their favorites on Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail. Here’s what some of our members told us. Do you see your favorites on the list? Is there another artist or production that you’d add? Let us know in the comments section.

Superb Set Design

Rachel Hauck’s set design work in A Boy and His Soul and Go Back to Where You Are. Lovely.

– @govnerdgrrl (via Twitter)

Paul Steinberg’s brilliant sets for Bathsheba Doran’s Kin at Playwrights Horizons, deceptively simple, evocative without being heavy-handed.

– @djmcclung (via Twitter)

Great Performances

Andrew Pastides is baring his soul in Love Song @59E59. It’s a tremendous performance. He made me cry, and it’s a rom com!

– @prforsmarties (via Twitter)

David Pittu leading “It’s a Simple Little System” in Bells are Ringing at Encores!, and just about everything in David Ives’ School for Lies at CSC: The rhyming couplets, the constant laughs, the company—especially Mamie Gummer and Hamish Linklater—even the costumes. Just brilliant theatre!

– Nancy Quigley

The Aquila Theatre at the NYU Skirball Center: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Enormously talented cast, endless energy, added whimsy. Bravo!

– Ilene Rosenthal

I’ll pick Laurie Metcalf’s tour de force in The Other Place. She’s on stage for almost the entire show, her emotions range from hyper-confident to confused to desperate, and she creates a rich, complex, and totally involving character. The play is well-constructed, and her supporting cast is strong, but Metcalf’s performance alone is worth the price of a ticket, even without a discount. It ranks with the best performances I’ve ever enjoyed; you don’t want to miss it.

– Harry Matthews

Laurie Metcalf was amazing in The Other Place. She has to keep switching back and forth among various types of crazy.

– Roger Gindi

I see a lot of productions, both on and off Broadway, but for me, there is no competition for my favorite performance this season: Michael Shannon in Mistakes Were Made at Barrow Street. It was a tour de force.

– Shari Lifland

Michael Shannon in Mistakes Were Made. An extraordinary, intense performance (in what was basically a one-man show) that had me shaking when I left the theatre!

– Dawn Connolly

Marin Ireland in In the Wake. She broke my heart.

– @WritersBlockRoc (via Twitter)

Jeffrey Wright in A Free Man of Color at Lincoln Center Theater was incredibly hilarious yet very believable as Jacques Cornet. He had awesome comedic timing and never dropped character.

– Sara Dalton

Reed Birney in A Small Fire at Playwrights Horizons. Beautiful, heartbreakingly masterful performance.

– Jill Garland

Michele Pawk in A Small Fire. Fave Off-Broadway performance. Raw, coarse, real.

— @AdventureSarahB (via Twitter)

Family Fun

We went to see Peter and the Starcatcher at New York Theatre Workshop with friends from Massachusetts. They liked it so much that they returned the next weekend with another Massachusetts couple to see it again. As a retired youth librarian, I had read the novel and enjoyed it and was amazed that it made such a terrific show.

– Karlan Sick

The best Off-Broadway show this season was Peter and the Starcatcher. It showed that special effects and huge budgets were NOT what theatre is really all about, and that the magic of the theatre is really derived from the creative minds of the artists. For example, in one scene, the single female in the cast is seemingly levitated when the far end of the ladder she is sitting on is simply pushed downward, causing her to rise upward. Ridiculously simple, but wonderfully effective. This show had heart, innocence, and whimsy. A delightful concoction with double entendres fit for an adult audience.

– Mark and Fran Kaufman

I took my family to see Cactus Flower. They were of various ages, from early teens to seniors, and we all loved the show.

– Anonymous

Wonderful still, The Fantasticks [at the Snapple Theater Center] is just as fresh and delicious as I remembered it from about 50 years ago (!) at the Sullivan St. Theatre! And my 15 year-old twin grand niece and grand nephew visiting from L.A. loved it! We were lucky enough to be there for a Q&A with the cast afterward.

– Greta Berman

A Signature Achievement

The Signature Theatre: We moved here four years ago and read a blurb about a theatre that was, because of funding by a business, very inexpensive. In four years it has gone from wonderful productions which no one we met knew about to a theatre you have a hard time getting into. It has been a gift from NYC to us. I applaud the staff… for giving us real theatre at movie prices.

– Bette Meisel

My favorite Off-Broadway moments had to have been the moments in the Signature Theatre’s production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: Perestroika between Jonathan Hadary as Roy Cohn and Billy Porter as Belize. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think lots of folks think of Billy Porter as a “Musical Theatre” actor. He has a stupid voice. A human being is not supposed to be able to sing like that (but thank God Billy does.) Yet these were the stand-out moments of the entire Angels saga at Signature. Hadary was, I believe, new to the company, which meant that people were still getting used to his take on the character, his timing, his flow. In other words, they were really listening and paying attention. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Cohn / Belize scenes. Two actors clearly at the top of their game, really enjoying playing with each other. And Porter—not just acting but “being.” These two were worth the price of admission to both parts of Angels.

– Tony Clements

By a landslide: Signature Theatre’s Angels in America! Powerful, moving, truthful, ever relevant. Best theatre experience ever!

– @stephtastic17 (via Twitter)

Thoughtful Drama

Absolutely no question about it: The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller [at the Arclight] was the funniest and most intelligent piece I saw this year. It deserved a longer run. Rolling-in-the-aisles funny; but deep, thoughtful, true underpinnings. Very inventive; wonderful writing. I’d love to see it again…. and a bargain through TDF.

– Bob Sultan

I loved seeing Freud’s Last Session at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre. Every aspect of the experience was wonderful: the set, the actors, the play, and the theatre were all impressive and enjoyable.

– Betty Kiernan

My favorite Off-Broadway moments involve The Whipping Man, a magical play bringing the aftermath of the Civil War (freeing of the slaves) together with Passover, the Jewish celebration of the freeing of the Jews as slaves in Egypt. Written by a non-Jew and starring an African-American actor, Andre Braugher, it was simply a wonderful experience for a jaded New York Jew unprepared for the emotional power of the play. However, the relevance of the play is not just for Jews. The idea of release from slavery and what happens next is something that is important for everyone, Jew and Gentile, white and black, or persons of any ethnic origin. This is an important play that should be playing throughout the country.

– Fred Gilbert

In The Wake [which was produced at the Public] is one of the most stirring and moving new pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a long time. It put up on stage things that have been happening to and around me for a decade.

– Tony B. Lance

La Barberia at New World Stages: Funny and all too relevant in the midst of Washington Heights getting gentrified.

– Bea Moreno

Magical Musicals and Clever Comedies

Although I’d read the book and seen the movie version, I’d never seen the musical adaptation of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I jumped at the chance and was lucky enough to get a ticket for what I understand was a nearly sold-out run from the Peccadillo Theater Company. What a lovely, tuneful show—good performances, direction, set design—everything was done with care and love.

– David Garnes

I think Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage at Sofia’s Downstairs Theater was so worth the money! Especially since the weekend we went, my friend Jan got in for free because she was able to prove that her name is Jan. Eve Plumb [who stars in the show and played Jan Brady on TV] was fantastic. We loved Mauricio Perez as Paco, too!

– Elizabeth

Miss Abigail’s was my favorite Off-Broadway performance. It was so much fun and kept me laughing the whole time! I keep recommending it to all my friends and can’t stop talking about it! I loved the audience participation and love that they email you after the show with answers to relationship questions.

– Amanda Glassman

The Divine Sister at the Soho Playhouse was divine! But more exciting than that was meeting Charles Busch after the show. I have seen all of his plays and love him so it was a thrilling moment.

– Karen DeAngelis

My favorite Off-Broadway show this year would be Vampire Cowboys’ The Inexplicable Redemption of Agent G. at St. Mark’s. As one of the handful of Asians in the theatre the night we went, my psyche grooved to the comic-con sensibility of this kung-fu-fighting send-up of Asian “Back to the Motherland” stories. What I especially loved about this show was how the director and the actors realized what moments were truly absurd. They commented on their characters in a meta-theatrical way that always seemed grounded in the ultimate truth of their story line. Which is to say that I loved every badass moment of it.

– Jill Cornell

We want to hear from you! What were your favorite moments Off Broadway this season?

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2 comments

1 Howard Levitsky { 05.14.11 at 1:19 am }

I greatly enjoyed many of the plays mentioned above – PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, ANGELS IN AMERICA, THE MAN WHO ATE MICHAEL ROCKEFELLER, THE SCHOOL FOR LIES…But I have to put in a big cheer for WITTENBERG, an extremely smart and funny “what-if” play, and its excellent direction by J. R. Sullivan and a playwright’s dream of a cast led by Scott Greer.

2 Mark Blankenship { 05.14.11 at 3:44 pm }

Hello Howard! Thanks for mentioning Wittenberg, which was a fantastic show.

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