2005_09_arts_massacre.jpg With the massive arts listings in last Sunday’s Times, the new season officially got underway, although theatre fans have for some time been able to get at least some idea about the next year on stage, and not only the brand-name productions, via the estimable nytheatre.com. Still, poring over those inky pages and getting overwhelmed by the sheer bulk of what’s about to come our way has no real substitute, and we’re now particularly looking forward to October’s Massacre (Sing to Your Children), a dark psychodrama/mystery written by Jose Rivera and being produced by the LAByrinth Theatre Company at the Public; 4.48 Psychose, Sarah Kane’s very experimental final play which will be performed by Isabelle Huppert in French (also in October, it’s part of both the Act French festival and BAM’s Next Wave festival); the latest provocation from Les Freres Corbusier, Hell House, which from the Times’ description sounds like it will be a close reproduction of fundamentalist Christians’ method of scaring people into faith, though you probably won’t have to look too hard for the satiric element; and Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed, a send-up of the pervasive celebrity gossip culture playing in December at Second Stage. We were also tickled to see that Martin McDonagh (writer of The Pillowman) and John Patrick Shanley (Doubt) will again go head-to-head with new plays next spring – Shanley’s Defiance at Manhattan Theatre Club and McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Atlantic. As the Times asks, why mess with success? The Pillowman’s imminent closing notwithstanding, both have been hits despite being singularly unsettling theatrical experiences, so maybe they offer each other mutual support, and maybe the new plays will find the same rapport. In any case, we’re excited.

But that’s all a hazy, approximate future, so back to the here and now, since there’s certainly no lack of things to see right away. Yesterday the New York Musical Theatre Festival opened for its second year, and it looks like the folks running it have filled the slate with some pretty intriguing, nontraditional musical productions. The festival is running for three weeks, so we’ll have updates and reviews as it goes along, since not all the shows are opening just yet. One theme that more than a few entries this year have in common is that of nostalgia for the fifties and sixties; a number of musicals look like they’ll be heavy on the camp, including (this week) It Came From Beyond and Wild Women of Planet Wongo. Both sound like great fun; It Came From Beyond is about a fifties high school guy who has to use clues from a comic book to save his girl from an alien attack, and Wild Women is a rock musical that finds two astronauts crashed on a planet of sexy ladies. Another show with the sixties groove is Plane Crazy, about airplane stewardesses in that era, but you’ll be hard pressed to get tickets, as it’s already sold out; fortunately, such keen interest (it’s already added a couple shows and sold them out) means it’s likely to find a more long-term home soon, and you can go then. 2005_09_arts_mistresses.jpg Also, it’s not all about conjuring up mid-20th century good times at the festival. Going a bit more feminist than Plane Crazy’s go-go booted flight attendants is The Mistress Cycle, which we’ve mentioned before and which, along with Wild Women of Planet Wongo and Uncle Jed’s Barbershop has received a Directors Choice Award from the National Musical Theatre Network. The Mistress Cycle, which weaves together the lives of five women (shown in the photo) from different centuries and different backgrounds, but all with unconventional love lives, opens Thursday. Last but not least (and there are more, of course) a likely good choice for this first week is Feeling Electric, which tackles a subject we’ve always wanted to see in a musical: electroshock therapy. Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt’s rock opera is about a family’s struggles with the mother’s debilitating depression, and it starts tomorrow.

2005_09_arts_giantvariation.jpg Finally, since Gothamist knows not everyone likes musicals, even if they are totally unconventional, may we suggest Francis Kuzler’s new play Giant-n-Variation. It’s part of Boomerang Theatre’s “Playing With Words” season, and the linguistic twistiness here comes with, well, talking cattle. Or at least they might be able to talk; that’s what Tom Noise is trying to find out, but he’s up against the Texas ranch family that owns the bulls. From the interview with Kuzler that’s up on nytheatre.com, it sounds thought-provokingly bizarre, and might be just the thing to slap you into form in this first part of the season.

Details: It Came From Beyond is at the 45th Street Theatre, 354 W. 45th St.; shows this week are Thurs.-Fri. at 8pm and Sat. at 1pm and 4:30pm.
Wild Women of Planet Wongo is at the Beckett Theatre (Theatre Row), 410 W. 42nd St., today and Sun. at 8pm and Fri. at 4:30pm.
The Mistress Cycle is at The Lion Theatre (410 W. 42nd); this week, Thurs. 8pm, Sat. 4:30pm, Sun. 1pm.
Feeling Electric is at the Barrow Group Theatre, 312 W. 36th St.; Wed. and Sat. 8pm, Sun. 4pm.
For more information see the official NYMF site and the online program. Tickets for all shows are through Theatermania.
Giant-n-Variation is at CenterStage, 48 W. 21, 4th Fl. This week shows are Thurs.-Sat. 8pm, Sun. 3pm. It runs through 10/1. Tickets are at Theatermania.

Photo of The Mistress Cycle by Bruce Glikas.