So many long-hyped shows are in the giddy last throes of previews on Broadway, we’re a bit afraid it might just pop and cover everything in its surrounds with tiny microphones and flakes of pancake makeup. Better stay far away – philosophically if not physically. 61 Dead Men looks like a great way to do so. It’s the first show we’ve ever seen billed as an “improv tragedy,” and that alone piques our interest. Janus Surratt developed and directs the production, which has as its center an artist named Haml who decides creation is the wrong way to go about changing the world, and that destruction is the way to go. That’s the anti-Broadway spirit we like!
Producers Club Theatre // 358 W. 44th St. // Wed. & Sun. 7pm, Thurs.-Sat. 8pm, Sat. & Sun. 2pm // Tickets via Theatermania

2006_04_arts_devilland.jpgPerhaps just as dark and disturbing (and, better, further from the Times Square crowds), Desi Moreno-Penson’s Devil Land is based on the true story of a kidnapping in the Bronx some years ago when a couple nabbed a young girl and shut her up in their basement, apparently thinking this might somehow make them all a family. The girl is no helpless munchkin, though – she has a monster-friend from the shadows of reality who reinforces her in her “battle of wills.” The play was at first to be called The Grinch, until a certain author’s estate lawyers came calling, but that effortlessly evocative original label gives you a bit of an idea of what you’re in for.
Urban Stages // 259 W. 30th St. // Through May 7 // See Smarttix for calendar and tickets

Staying in the realm of the fantastical, but lightening way, way up, we can’t help but be drawn to A Fine and Private Place, York Theatre Co.’s revival of a musical based on Peter S. Beagle’s novel (first staging was in 1989). It’s about a man who lives in a cemetery helping new spirits – one man and woman in particular – to accept what’s happened, even as he is drawn back to real life by a widow who often visits. Sounds potentially smarmy, we admit, but we love Beagle’s writing, and he wrote the book while living near Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, so there should be enough touches of reality to keep it grounded.
Theatre at St. Peter’s // 619 Lexington Ave. // Through May 21, Mon. & Wed.-Sat. 8pm, Wed. & Sat. also 2:30pm, Sun. 3pm // Tickets via Smarttix

Another Urban Riff has an ongoing project called "Mixed Tape," in which four writers each create a play that features music from a boombox. The plays are designed to flow from one to the other by having the second writer limited to reading the first play and required to use a character from that play, and so on. It’s all women this month: Amber Petty, Lisa Atenasio, Tricia McAlpin, and Marge Lewit are the participants. Call it a gimmick, but if it gets the flow going, we see no reason to do anything but jump in.
Under St. Mark’s // 94 St. Mark’s Place // Through Apr. 29, Thurs.-Sat. 8pm // Call 917-567-4693 to reserve tickets

2006_04_arts_loveair.jpgThe Gothamist pick this week comes to us from the delightfully-named Pig Brooch Theatre, as it presents Love Is in the Air, which was in the 2005 Fringe. A silent film director’s magnum opus never gets shown because the final reel is lost; fast forward through the decades, and an Estonian clown troupe discovers the film and watches it once, only for it to decompose once and for all at the end. This performance is their attempt to “reconstruct” it. We didn’t see the show in the Fringe, but the synopsis definitely brings to mind good comparisons with some of the best things we’ve seen lately – Not Clown, for one, and All Wear Bowlers a little further back – so we don’t want to miss it this time around, and advise you to take the same approach.
14th St. Y // 344 E. 14th St. // Through May 6, Thurs.-Sat. 8pm // Reserve tickets here