Off- and off-off-Broadway theatre companies obviously haven’t heard of the legendary late summer arts doldrums. Or, perhaps, more likely, they’re taking advantage of the sloth of the bigger shows, and getting a jump on things while they can: according to nytheatre.com, no fewer than 48 new productions are starting this week. There’s a lot that looks really interesting, but so you don’t have to slog through all those listings we’ve got a few recommendations – and so this doesn’t turn into a massive post, we’ll have a few more later this week.

2005_09_arts_tutor.jpg First, just in time for the new school year, Prospect Theater Company is performing The Tutor, which has already managed to win the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Richard Rodgers Award three times. Maryrose Wood wrote the book and lyrics, and Andrew Gerle the music, for this show about an aspiring novelist who takes on the unpleasant task of tutoring a Manhattan high school girl for her SATs. Most people (Gothamist at least) do their best to forget those days of bubble sheets and vocabulary drills, but the people at Prospect promise that this musical is much more enjoyable than the test. Eric Ankrim plays Edmund, the tutor, and Meredith Bull plays Sweetie, the not-so-sweet student; with all the time this show has been in development and workshops, it sounds like it’s going to be in tip-top shape for the big test – er, opening.

The Tutor runs Sept. 10-Oct. 2 at 59E59 Theatres (59 E. 59th St.). Thurs.-Sat. 8pm, Sun. 2pm. Tickets via TicketCentral.
Drawing by Jaime Valles.
(previews continue after the jump)

In keeping with the back-to-school theme, if you quickly got weary of reading Greek classics as a student, and/or are wary of having to yawn through modern productions of them, you might like Saving the Greeks, by Jason Pizzarello. Its main characters are Dialysis and Peon, who found a city named Betterland as a refuge for the characters in those Greek tragedies, allowing Pizzarello to bring in threads of many different stories and create something rather more uplifting and comical than your typical blood-and-tears-soaked Oedipus cycle.

Saving the Greeks previews Sept. 8 at 8pm, opening Sept. 9 at 8pm; shows Thurs.-Sat. 9pm, Sun. 3pm, through Sept. 25 at the 14th St. Y, 344 E. 14th St. Tickets via TicketCentral.

2005_09_arts_limijoy.JPG Another unusual approach to storytelling will be on display in the International WOW Company’s new production Limitless Joy, created and directed by the company’s producing artistic director Josh Fox. The show aims to trace the origins and history of human desire (not a small task, one imagines). Since the time span covered is from Biblical Genesis and the Garden of Eden to contemporary NYC, lives are compressed to the space of a few minutes. Not only that, there will be a tomato fight and a dance segment with cast members painted in chocolate pudding, so you can be sure the intellectual component of this questioning about the role of passion in the human spirit won’t be edging out the importance of physicality.

Limitless Joy opens Sept. 11 at 8pm and runs until Oct. 1. Shows are Wed.-Sun. 8pm, Sat. 3pm. Tickets at Smarttix.

2005_09_arts_eisteddfod.jpg Finally, bear with us as we return for half a sec, once more, to the Fringe Festival. In addition to getting judged by the professionals as one of the best solo shows this year, The Miss Education of Jenna Bush won the audience award, even though, as Gothamist commented last week, we’re not sure how well that ballot can really work given the different theater sizes and other factors. That show hasn’t yet announced any extension, though it most likely will; however, three Fringe shows have already extended or are about to, so check them out if you missed them the first time around: The Eisteddfod, an Australian production about a brother and sister rehearsing Macbeth, is at the Ontological-Hysteric Theatre (131 E. 10th St.) until Sept. 10, and at the Flea Theatre both The Lightning Field (which was one of this year’s “outstanding play” awardwinners) and Half-Life (whose author, Robert Moulthroup, was recognized for outstanding playwriting) have extended. The Lightning Field re-opens Sept. 12 at 9pm and runs through Sept. 29; Half-Life re-opens Sept. 9 at 9pm and runs through Sept. 24. Expect more announcements of extensions soon, and more Gothamist previews and a review later this week.
Photo shows The Eisteddfod.