Unless you’re luckier than we are, you pass the posters advertising The Odd Couple’s revival with a bitter harrumph. It’s starting previews today for an Oct. 27th opening to a run that’s been sold out since practically the first minute someone had the idea for casting Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. So why even bring it up, since those who have the tickets are sitting pretty and those who don’t are more or less S.O.L.? Well, if masochism isn’t a good enough answer, let's just say it gives us a segue to remind everyone that there is quite a lot more to see. Quite a lot.
Of course, much of the rest of the theatre world seems caught in a revival time warp too, even if they don’t have names like Broderick and Lane attached. Unlike The Odd Couple – though in keeping with off-Broadway norms – many of the current revivals are reinterpretation with some major adaptations. Shakespeare, not surprisingly, is at the core of many of them; take La Tempestad, Larry Loebell’s version of The Tempest which he sets on the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico, allowing him to interweave commentary on current affairs with an updated love story. The company behind the production, Resonance Ensemble, is also doing a more traditional version of The Tempest at the same theatre right now (Victor Moag, who directs, has adapted it for three people), so if you like to see innovative new takes on Shakespeare but are attached to the original as well, in this case you can have your cake and eat it too, sort of.
The various listings we’ve seen haven’t been overly enlightening about how faithful Naked Macbeth is to the Bard’s own vision, perhaps at least partly because of how the production apparently uses the second possible interpretation of its title: the 12 actors, while not exactly naked boys singing, are indeed “stripped” at times, mirroring (we guess) the paring down of the script. Macbeth is such an engrossingly bloody and psychologically piercing play that Gothamist wouldn’t have thought that it needed the extra attraction of nudity to sell tickets – we could use it in some of the historical plays, though, that’s for sure – but hey, maybe it really is all about the minimalism. One way or the other, it sounds like a pretty interesting show. But that’s not all we have this week…
We’re obviously guilty as much as anyone of blithely referring to Shakespeare as “the Bard,” as though he were the only one to deserve that title. But without even going into Homer’s claim to it, one could mention the real Anglo-Saxon bards who developed and memorized the epic Beowulf, among others. And right now at the Irish Repertory is a brand new “ritualistic rock opera” adaptation of it by Lenny Pickett and Lindsey Turner. The original poem hasn’t been performed, whether in traditional manner or updated, more than a tiny fraction of the times Shakespeare’s plays have been done, but since Beowulf is about ten centuries older than those and has to be translated into modern English far more than they do, modernizing the style in addition is an even more understandable step than it is with Romeo & Juliet or Macbeth, say, and since the epic’s actual story line, with dragons and magic and royalty, is maintained here, it should make for some great juxtapositions.
To reminisce about another ancient time, head to La MaMa, which in the first weeks of its new season is showing a revival of Why Hanna’s Skirt Won’t Stay Down, written by Tom Eyen and first produced at La MaMa 40 years ago. Helen Hanft starred in the title role – Hanna is a ticket taker at a porno palace on 42nd Street who gets involved with a latter-day Narcissus by the name of Arizona – in the original, and she’s “recreating” it now. Unfortunately Eyen is no longer with us (he died in 1991) but George Ferencz, the director, is adept at these kinds of returning shows, having staged Motel, also from 1965, at La MaMa last year; Gothamist saw that and was impressed by the authenticity of the retro vibe.
Finally, for something completely different, the tail end of a festival of new works by women, the Artists of Tomorrow Festival, which began on Sept. 14. This week you can see Eliza Anderson’s The Water Principle, billed as a tragic-comic fable of exploitation and survival; and in Eve Descending, Abena Koomson has taken it upon herself to fill in the gaping holes in the Bible about women’s experiences, using poetry, dance and music; and several others. The full schedule for the festival is here. Clearly, whether you opt for the old, the new old, or the new, there’s a whole lot of shows opening and continuing this week, so do yourself a favor and head out to one of them.
Details: La Tempestad and The Tempest are playing at the Ohio Theater, 66 Wooster. The Tempest has previews on Friday and Saturday at 8pm, La Tempestad on Sunday and Monday at 7pm; the full schedule is here. Tickets for both are at Theatermania.
Naked Macbeth is at the Sonnet Theatre, 358 W. 44th St., starting Thurs. Shows are Thurs.-Sat. 8pm, Sun. 2pm & 7pm. Tickets are at Theatermania.
Beowulf starts Friday and runs through Nov. 13 with shows Wed.-Sat. 8pm and matinees Wed./Sat./Sun. at 3pm. The Irish Repertory Theatre is at 132 W. 22nd St. Call (212) 727-2737 for tickets.
Why Hanna’s Skirt Won’t Stay Down opens Fri. at La MaMa (74A E. 4th St.) and plays through Oct. 16. Shows are Fri. & Sat. at 10pm, Sun. 5:30pm. Tickets are online at Theatermania.
The Artists of Tomorrow festival runs through Sun. Most shows are at the Church of St Paul and St Andrew, 263 W. 86th St. More info is at the Six Figure Theatre Company’s site and you can buy tickets via Smarttix.