As Gothamist emerges from Fringe madness, there’s a bit of catching up to do. So today we bring you ideas about what shows to see next, and a review of one of them, Revolution Row, which aims to bring liberals’ bad dreams to life by showing what things might be like if religious conservatives get what they want.

First, things to keep in mind/in BlackBerry for the coming weeks:
The New York Musical Theatre Festival opens on Sept. 12 for its second year. There are far fewer entries than in the Fringe (sorry, we still have it on the brain) with around 30 mainstage performances including The Mistress Cycle, which interweaves the tales of four mistresses throughout history; Monica! The Musical (about that notorious White House sort-of mistress, who isn’t included in the latter show); and the groovy-looking sci-fi Wild Women of Planet Wongo. The full program is in this PDF, and tickets are at Theatermania.

2005_09_arts_slut2.jpgSlut, which a couple years ago was the first Fringe show to sell out all its tickets, has made it all the way to off-Broadway. (Oops, another Fringe reference. Sue us, it was a packed couple of weeks.) It’s about a guy who’s making his way through life on a string of one-night stands, and claims to be “the first musical to speak to the culture of promiscuity” without euphemisms. The opening is at the American Theatre of Actors on Sept. 13. Tickets at Telecharge.

Love him or hate him, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s work returns on 2 stages this fall: a revival (heh) of Jesus Christ Superstar opens at the Producers Club on Sept. 23, warming audiences up for Sir Webber’s new musical, The Woman in White, which opens Oct. 28. (Phew, made it. This is about as far from the Fringe as it’s possible to get.)

Finally, though there are going to be plenty of Hollywood celebrity sightings on New York stages this season, probably one of the most intriguing is going to be far from Broadway. Claire Danes will star in Tamar Rogoff’s Christina Olson: American Model at P.S. 122 beginning Sept. 22. Olson’s legs were paralyzed, but instead of using a wheelchair she created her own form of movement, and this is a dance piece inspired by her story. Tickets online at Theatermania.

After the jump: what about this weekend?

Our focus on the Fringe notwithstanding, plenty of other shows have opened in the last couple weeks and are still going on, and plenty more are heading in now. One such is Finding Pedro, which opened yesterday at Manhattan Theatre Source. Three citizens of Sherrill, TX are competing for a community service award, but all their efforts are comically thwarted by an influx of pesky ex-lovers and other riff-raff. James Heatherly is performing all the roles, which should be a neat trick. To make ticket reservations, call 212-501-4751. MTC, 177 MacDougal; Wed.-Fri. 8pm, Sat. 6:30 & 9pm

Alternatively, you could check out the world premiere run of Marc Blitzstein’s translation of Brecht’s Mother Courage, which is in previews at the Jean Cocteau Repertory and stars Lorinda Lisitza in the title role of a peddler trying to make ends meet during the Thirty Years’ War of the 1600’s. Though Blitzstein wrote the translation in the ’50s (it was never used), the current staging is likely to draw parallels with certain ongoing wars. Tickets online at Ticket Central. Bouwerie Lane Theatre, 330 Bowery; Wed. 7pm, Thurs.-Sat. 8pm, Sun. 3pm

2005_09_arts_revolution.jpg Or you could travel somewhat into the future, figuratively speaking of course, by going to Edward Miller’s Revolution Row, which takes place ten years from now. The play doesn’t seem all that far-fetched in many ways, which is scary in and of itself. The deal is that radical conservatives have tightened their grip on American politics to the extent that newer civil rights are being rolled back or curtailed; what’s in question most here is gay rights. Reginald Mason (played with poise by Chris Gilmer) leads a band of other young gay men into jail after they don’t pay taxes, and from within the jail they carry on with the fight and recruit people from outside, straight and gay alike, to help. Most of the story, as well as the often laborious spelling out of political arguments, is revealed via interviews with a sympathetic TV reporter (the excellent Anna Lewis) and conversations with the jail warden (Jack Drucker, who manages the distasteful role well). The end is less bleak than Gothamist half expected, given the dire situation hypothesized, but even so, it would be hard not to leave without being in a bit of a daze, both from contemplating the future the play proposes (relatively happy ending notwithstanding) and from making it through some of the bumps in the quality of the show. The two main problems are the length and the preachiness, which together make it somewhat harder to appreciate the story that’s being acted out. The play is subtitled “A Call to Arms,” but even if all that’s intended is to make people concerned enough for the future to want to take action to prevent a scenario like this from coming to be, that effort is undercut by extraneous scenes and characters that muddle the power of the central conflict. Though the script is sometimes clumsy and has any number of stilted phrases, the acting is generally good, especially on the level of the actors seeming to really understand and live in their characters. The set is also quite interesting – the mere inclusion of a chain-link fence that covers the front of the stage, so that the audience has to be conscious of the characters’ imprisonment at all times, goes a long way toward setting the tone. All in all, Revolution Row doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its premise, mostly because even for a political call to arms, on stage it’s necessary to have an engaging, hopefully sometimes tense drama, and while there are certainly the makings of that here, the script needs a lot more paring before it will really show.
Photo by Ann Bartek.