In a city where there’s as much theater as there is here, we’re never too surprised when shows open that have a lot in common, but it’s always fun to note and wonder what was happening in the creative Zeitgeist to generate technically unrelated but similar works. This week, for instance, Rachel Shukert’s Bloody Mary opens, bringing the life of the notoriously unbalanced daughter of Henry VIII to the stage in suitably off-the-wall fashion (Mary has a guardian who just might be Jimi Hendrix; a New York lawyer somehow gets involved in the power struggles). Meanwhile, at the Pearl you can see Schiller’s dark, brooding Mary Stuart, which looks at the events surrounding the execution of Bloody Mary’s cousin, which was ordered by Elizabeth I. The Pearl always presents loving, carefully considered revivals, so the coincident dates with Shukert’s production should provide a good opportunity for comparing and contrasting visions of ye olde England.
Bloody Mary // Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center // 107 Suffolk St. // Through May 13, Wed.-Sun. 8pm // Tickets at Smarttix
Mary Stuart // Pearl Theatre // 80 St. Mark’s Place // Through May 21; tonight at 7, Thurs.-Sat. 8pm, Wed., Sat. & Sun. 2pm (no Sat. matinee this week) // Call 212-598-9802 for tickets

2006_04_arts_zarathustra.jpgZarathustra Said Some Things, No? is the interest-piquing title of a provocative-sounding play by novelist Trevor Ferguson that centers on a Canadian couple in Paris that is in a protracted suicide compact; as the supposedly final hour approaches, the two rake through their pasts and dredge up some disturbing secrets and dark truths that feed the psychological game they’re playing with each other. As you might expect, from the title and the nihilistic trajectory of the plot, it invokes Nietzsche often, but it sounds like it will (thankfully) be quite a bit more tense than his sometimes sprawling writings.
Theatre 54 // 244 W. 54th St., 12th Fl. // Through May 21, Tues.-Sat. 8pm, Sat. & Sun. 2pm (no matinees this weekend) // Tickets at Theatermania

Another psychodrama, and one that stood out to us as sharing some elements in common with Zarathustra… is John Cariani’s cul-de-sac, produced by the Transport Group, which reveals the secrets heretofore hidden in three houses on a cul-de-sac over the course of a night. The official synopsis, at least, makes it sound pretty Nietzschean: “Each couple on this dead end street goes to extreme measures to force their dreams, revealing long-suppressed agendas that threaten their survival.” If all goes well, that will to power, or at least the intensity involved, should spell a mesmerizing evening of theatre.
The Connelly Theatre // 220 E. 4th St. // Through May 13, Tues.-Sat. 8pm, Sat. 2pm, Sun. 3pm (no show tonight) // Tickets via Theatermania

It isn’t exactly coincidence if the same theatre company is doing both shows, of course, but nonetheless it should be interesting and instructive for audiences to be able to see the Milk Can Theatre Company’s production of Tom Stoppard’s wonderful Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, directed by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, in repertory with their collection of six ten-minute pieces collectively called The Hamlet Plays, which are like Stoppard’s creation in that they take on characters from Hamlet other than Hamlet, and go from there, in some cases taking off even further afield than Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, a taking of liberties we can only encourage.
Michael Weller Theatre // 311 W. 43rd St., 6th Floor // Both through May 14 // Tickets and schedules at Theatermania

2006_04_arts_littlered.jpgTo keep things mixed up, the Gothamist pick this week is unlike any of these, or pretty much any other show currently running. Toy Box Theatre’s Little Red: Lost in the Woods, by Alex P. Baack along with the company, vaults the classic story into our media-saturated age, so that the wolf’s alleged attack on a young girl has blown up out of all proportion into the 24/7 wall-to-wall coverage we know all too well. The cast takes the stage with a “live” news report running; it may not take the power of the blogosphere into account, but even so it looks to be a witty, incisive, and all too relevant comment on the merciless modern environment of infotainment.
Morocco Studio // 6 W. 20th St., 2nd Floor // Through May 8, Fri.-Sun. 8pm, Mon. 7pm // Tickets via Smarttix