2006_01_arts_iloveyoubecause.jpgWe read in the Times this weekend that today is supposedly one of the most depressing days this year, according to some sort of logarithm computed by Health magazine, and that seems entirely plausible to us – January is not a friendly month, even when it’s not super cold. One would think that the default theatrical antidote for the winter doldrums would be some sort of peppy, bright-eyed musical, but for some reason right now a great deal of the work in that genre seems to be aimed at kids or family audiences, not really our cup of tea. There’s one that might do the trick, though: I Love You Because, which doesn’t officially open until Feb. 14 but is in previews now at the Village Theatre. Ryan Cunningham wrote the book and lyrics and Joshua Salzman furnished music for this mixed-up take on Pride and Prejudice, in which a greeting card writer faces a turn of events quite distinct from the schmaltz he turns out for a living, when he discovers that his girlfriend is sleeping with another man and so has to start dating again and learn how to love someone else. This might sound like the makings of a horror show rather than anything pleasant, especially since the dating scene in question is New York, but from the sound of it this play is squarely in the feel-good humor camp.

A nominee for this week’s misleading title award goes to The Art of Love, a new play by Robert Kornfeld which is actually about the timeless art of censoring writers and not anything romantic. The title comes from the way Kornfeld addresses that censorship, which is to reach back in history to when the Roman emperor Augustus exiled the poet Ovid, who wrote the first work by that name. Given that the play is showing at the always provocative Theater for the New City, a two millennia gap isn’t likely to stand in the way of overt references to the current political environment; with so many journalists in trouble these days, there’s certainly no lack of modern material to connect the ancient story to.

Much more AND details after the jump...

2006_01_arts_lovely.jpgAnother misleading title nominee is Lovely Day, by Leslie Ayvazian, which is another topical offering currently on the boards. The day in question is a couple’s anniversary, when they find out that their son’s high school has been visited by a military recruiter, and he is considering enlistment. It doesn’t get a whole lot more intensely hot-button than that these days. The reliable risk-taking group The Play Company is producing the show, which makes us think it might be in the category of subtle political commentary that we keep hoping for more of.

OK, one more misleading title nominee, though we don’t really have a prize to award. A Brilliant Play by John McEnroe is not, in fact, by the onetime tennis champ, in case you didn’t catch the double meaning right away. It is however a comedy about him, by Adam Carpenter and Zach Steel, and about his “plays” and his arrogant I’ll-take-on-the-world-and-win attitude, and we suspect that even if you’re not a particular tennis fan, or a fan or foe of McEnroe, you’ll laugh quite a bit at the vintage ridiculousness on display here.

Our last two picks this week don’t really have anything to do with the others or what we’ve been talking about except that they sound like they’re both interesting and well-executed enough to pull their audiences out of those late January blues. First, though we’re usually pretty Manhattan-centric about theater, we know there are some great venues elsewhere; however, there still aren’t many shows that celebrate other boroughs in the way that Manhattan has been. Breuckelen, which opens this weekend (curiously enough, it’s at Collective:Unconscious in lower Manhattan), seeks to remedy that: it brings to life “the convergence of Brooklyn’s gentrified present and its mostly forgotten past” by way of an open mic night at a café. It sounds to us like playwright Chris Van Strander has hit upon a rich seam of story material; probably, with Brooklyn having become hip in the past few years, we can expect a lot more plays about life on the other side of the bridge to appear.

Finally, from the other side of the pond comes Safety, by Chris Thorpe. It takes a look at journalism and the roles and responsibilities journalists have in relation to millions of people they don’t know, as well as to the people they are most intimate with; this specific story is of a war photographer whose daughter is saved from drowning by a stranger, forcing him to reevaluate his outlook on and approach to life, something many of us start doing this time of year, albeit unwillingly. At least watching someone else do it, we can get away for a while from our own discomfort – so take a break, and see Safety or one of these others. It’ll do you good.

Details:I Love You Because is at the Village Theatre, 158 Bleecker St. During previews, Sat. 10pm tickets are just $25. Shows are Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri. 8pm; Sat. 7 & 10pm, Sun. 3pm & 7pm. Tickets at Ticketmaster.

The Art of Love is at Theater for the New City, 155 1st Ave. Shows are Thurs.-Sat. 8pm, Sun. 3pm. Tickets via Theatermania.

Lovely Day is at the Beckett, 410 W. 42, through Feb. 12. Shows are Tues.-Sat. 8pm, Sat. also 2pm, Sun. 3pm. Tickets via Ticket Central.

A Brilliant Play by John McEnroe is at the Gene Frankel Theater, 24 Bond St., through Feb. 5. Shows are Wed.-Sat. 8pm, Sun. 2pm. Tickets are at Smarttix.

Breukelen is at Collective:Unconscious, 279 Church St., through Feb. 19. Shows are Fri. & Sat. 10pm. Tickets via Theatermania.

Safety is at Urban Stages, 259 W. 30th St., through Feb. 12. Shows are Thurs.-Sat. 8pm, Sun. 7pm. Tickets via Smarttix.