Maybe it’s just us, but the days and weeks seem to have slowed down to less than a crawl lately, as though they were molasses and this were actually a cold January. That’s what good theater’s for, though – to transport you to another place and make you experience time differently. This week there’s a motley assortment of shows on offer to help.

The Narcissists, a two-year-old company that started in Chicago, take the idea of useful theater very literally: their group statement says they “believe in theatre as a form of therapy for both the audience and the actors.” On Thursday their new show, C. Commute (written by Alexander Holt with the group’s founder, Ryan Holwell) opens at the Red Room, and it sounds like a perfect reflection of the group’s name. In a series of monologues, ten actors depict neurotic people who are trying their worst mature, to fulfill or break free of their various desires. Unless the actors aren’t human, we’d imagine that they probably haven’t had to stretch too much to find strong elements of the characters they play.

2006_01_arts_backthroat.jpgThere’s no shortage of “issue plays” off-off-Broadway; that’s probably always been the case, even when politics weren’t so contentious. It’s probably also always been the case that the views being expressed have skewed way left; we can remember maybe one sort-of non-radically liberal show in the recent past. Maybe. This week is no different, with the Flea Theater hosting Back of the Throat by Yussef El Guindi, an Arab American who knows firsthand about his play’s topic: the recent erosion of civil liberties in America as demonstrated through the character of an Arab American writer investigated by the government for supposed terrorist connections. Just another light little piece of contemporary Americana, you know.

Quiara Alegria Hughes takes a more oblique approach to political realities with Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue, which opens this week at the always-relevant Culture Project. The Elliot of the title is a soldier recently returned from duty in Iraq, and at home he starts learning of his father and grandfather’s times in the military, experiences that unite the three via “the black holes of war.” That might sound smarmy, but it’s not the kind of straight play that can descend so easily into cliché; stream-of-consciousness narrative and twists and collisions in time are what you’ll get instead here, and that’s a most welcome approach, in our book.

Details and more after the jump...

Beyond the Veil sounds like it might be an issues play – something about Islamic women throwing off the ol’ burka and becoming independent, Western-style gals, right? Actually, no. John Chatterton’s play is the story of a certain William Royce, a 19th century scientist who employs and takes in a supposed medium, through whom he says he wants to reach a dead lover. Riiight. The show sounds like it will conjure up delightfully kinky echoes of the Met’s recent photography show “The Perfect Medium,” something we’re all in favor of since it means a respite from tortured political posturing.

src="" width="204" height="207" align="right" hspace="5"/>There will surely be a glut of Harold Pinter plays in a few months once theater companies have finished scrambling to get one together to capitalize on his Nobel prize. For now, though, with the Atlantic Theater Company’s recent double Pinter bill come and gone, your options are limited, but there is one intriguing possibility: Folding Chair Classical Theatre has added Pinter’s A Kind of Alaska to 19th century writer Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market and decided it equals “Night.” Both short plays are riffs on the Sleeping Beauty tale, with Pinter’s jumping off from Oliver Sacks’ studies of people with a sleeping sickness (also the inspiration for Awakenings) and Rossetti’s telling of a woman who tries to save her sister, who has fallen under a spell. Maybe we’ll all wake up in a few days and it will be May again and easy living; meanwhile, be sure to get in a good dose of theater.


C. Commute is at the Red Room, 85 E. 4th St., from Thurs. until Feb. 18. Shows are Thurs-Sat. 8pm. Email or call 646-508-4986 for tickets.
Back of the Throat is at the Flea, 41 White St., from Thurs. through March 8. Shows for the next two weeks are Thurs.-Sat. 9pm, Sun.-Mon. & Wed. 7pm. Check the calendar for later dates. Tickets here
Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue is at 45 Below @ the Culture Project, 45 Bleecker St., until Feb. 19. Performances are Wed.-Sat. 8pm. Sun. 3pm (except no show this Sun.). Tickets at Theatermania
Beyond the Veil is at Where Eagles Dare Tickets, 347 W. 36th St., from Thurs.-Feb. 26, Thurs.-Sat. at 8pm, Sun. 2pm. Tickets via Smarttix
Night is at the 78th St. Theater Lab, 276 W. 78th St., from Thurs.-Feb. 25.