The New York City stage is packed this summer and the three Off-Broadway productions I'm recommending, Ruined, The Temperamentals, and Jeffery & Cole: Make It Bigger, all represent the wonderful diversity of offerings currently available to theatergoers.
Ruined, which won the Pulitzer Prize this year, is the story of Mama Nadi, a women who owns a brothel in the middle of a civil war in the Congo. Loosely inspired by Brecht's Mother Courage, Ruined offers us a glimpse into the lives of these women as they struggle to survive. It's one powerful story.
The script feels authentic and was carefully researched and developed by interviewing women who live in the region under these deplorable conditions. The production has been running for months at Manhattan Theatre Club, but is still fresh, vital, and beautifully performed.
I'd be shocked if Ruined doesn't get a shot at Broadway soon.
Playing until August 23rd, The Temperamentals is the true story of the creation of American's first gay rights group. Staged both simply & beautifully in the intimate Barrow Group Theater, you feel as if you're a part of their early organizing - both victories & defeats. The entire cast is fabulous; lead with strength by Thomas Jay Ryan and Ugly Betty's Michael Urie.
Harry Hay, the founder of The Temperamentals, wasn't as known to me as Stonewall or Harvey Milk, but he's courageous and intelligent. Anyone currently involved in the fight for gay equality (and who believe it has to do with way more than marriage) will find lots to like in Hay's philosophies. He's no fan of total gay assimilation, and would question the value in the current pursuit of a strictly heteronormative agenda.
In fact, shortly before his death (at the age of 90) in 2002 Hay said, "The assimilationist movement is running us into the ground." Amen brother.
For big laughs, with zero assimilation, head downtown to Earl Dax's Hot! Festival. Queer performers have taken over the uber-trendy Dixon Place. Two of those performers are my good friends Jeffery Self and Cole Escola, extremely funny guys who have scored quite a hit with their current Logo TV show Jeffery & Cole Casserole.
Jeffery & Cole's Hot! Festival offering, 'Make It Bigger,' is loosely based on their story, from YouTube to the boob tube. Wonderfully raunchy and politically incorrect their rise to fame story has lots of familiar elements and big laughs. You can see their final performance on Thursday night.
Ryan is a freelance theater director, who is currently directing Vote! at FringeNYC and Street Lights at NYMF. His musical White Noise recently premiered regionally in New Orleans. Read his blog here.