Let's give it up for fantastical productions, courtesy of CSC's inspired staging of Orlando, adapted from the Virginia Woolf novel. Woolf is considered one of the greatest innovators in the English language. Skilled at mining the psychological terrain of her characters, she explores gender, androgyny and social expectation in Orlando, which doubled as a literary love letter to Vita Sackville-West.
In the deft hands of adapter Sarah Ruhl, whose In the Next Room was Tony-nominated last year, Orlando is an intimate play that adroitly uses humor, whimsy and eloquence to address the profundity and absurdity of sex roles. Orlando, perfectly embodied by Francesca Faridany, is a young, brazen Elizabethan man who, over the centuries, is transformed, inexplicably, into a lovely woman. As an aristocrat, he enjoys all the freedoms of his sex, including an affair with a feisty Russian princess (Annika Boras). The female Orlando meets a slew of eccentric suitors, played by David Greenspan and Howard Overshown, who, alongside Tom Nelis, act as a campy Greek chorus.
The exceptional performances are aided by director Rebecca Tachman; she has the difficult task of giving the narration a theatrical edge. She does so with a sublime and fanciful touch, thanks to a first-rate creative team. By employing less-is-more stagecraft, the amazing music of Christian Frederickson and Ryan Rumery, Allen Moyer's clever sets and Christopher Akerlind's lovely lighting enhance an unusual story and produce thoughtful theater.
Two centuries earlier, moral lessons were rendered in fairy tales. El gato con botas, better known in English as Puss in Boots, concerns a clever cat who uses trickery to gain power and a princess for his low-born master. Compiled in 1697 in the Tales of Mother Goose collection, Puss has been a hit ever since. The cat appears in the third act of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet, though most modern audiences probably know him as the charming rascal in Shrek 2.
Now the Gotham Chamber Opera, which performed Haydn's Il mondo della luna in January to great acclaim, is taking a crack at the wily feline -- staging the opera El gato con botas by Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvatge with Tectonic Theater Project. Playing the New Victory Theater Oct 2-10, the hour-long production, noted for its expressive score, is directed by Moisés Kaufman, who deftly helmed 33 Variations on Broadway. El gato features a cast of five singers along with creations from the London puppet masters Blind Summit Theatre, renown for crafting puppets for adult audiences. (Past shows have included Madame Butterfly for the Metropolitan Opera.) Performances are available in both English and the original Spanish, with English supertitles.
A feline seducer of a different stripe -- cabaret diva Meow Meow -- is holding court Oct 4-6 at Joe's Pub. The singer, mesmerizing sellout audiences in New York, London, Berlin and Sydney Opera House, is a fixture in arts festivals, with "Beyond Glamour: The Absinthe Tour," "VAMP!" and "Shanghai Demise." A regular guest with Spiegeltent's "La Cirque" globally, the award-winning post-modern performer, according to Time Out New York, "drags cabaret kicking and screaming into the 21st century." A versatile repertoire -- from Brecht to French pop -- is just the beginning. Meow Meow's sexy, singular delivery is matched by her high-gloss irreverence. Consider her a required revelation.