Along with producing shows by up and coming playwrights, one of the things off-off-Broadway does best is to resurrect plays first presented ages ago that have hardly been seen or thought of since. One such is V.R. Lang’s Fire Exit: A Vaudeville For Eurydice, which is nominally a modernization of the Orpheus-Eurydice myth but in actuality, at least in this incarnation, is more an opportunity for some majorly bizarre antics by a brave, eager cast. It’s the 1950s, and Orpheus, a hotshot young composer, marries Eurydice, who comes from a family of carnival folk, only to break her heart by caring more about his career than their life together. Fortunately, Eury grew up with the good examples of some wacky “aunts” – one of them played by director Barbara Vann – and she finally learns to embrace the performer in herself and not look back.
Medicine Show // 549 W. 52nd // Through May 21, Thurs.-Sat. 8pm, Sun. 4pm // Tickets via Smarttix

Though the rhythm is sometimes less than apparent, Fire Exit is a verse play; Lang was friends with many of the 20th century’s major poets –Koch, Ashbery, O’Hara et al. – people who are celebrated frequently at the Poetry Project. This weekend, some current and rising players in the poetry-theater scene are enjoying a brief spotlight in "Plays On Words," a co-production of the Poetry Project and the Ontological-Hysterical Theater. It includes an array of works in which “performance and verse will collide”; the Bowery Poetry Club’s Bob Holman has a play, and there are micro-plays by folks like Anselm Berrigan, Anne Waldman, and Tom Raworth, plus others in a lineup that Lang and her circle fifty years ago surely would have approved of.
Ontological Theater // 131 E. 10th St. // May 11-14, schedule here (scroll down) // Tickets at the OHT website or call 212-352-3101

2006_05_arts_springshorts.JPGAnother now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t festival (there can never be too many!) is 3Graces’ Spring Shorts, which has seven one-acts by six playwrights showing only for five days. 3Graces is dedicated to telling women’s stories, so that’s the common thread among the pieces, but of course there’s a huge variety possible from there, and these shorts range from Sharyn Rothstein’s "Remind Me Again" – in which a woman is doubly disturbed after a stranger tries to kiss her on the street and then the women at her work somehow find something to celebrate in that – to 3Graces managing director Kelli Lynn Harrison’s "Annunciation," about an American businesswoman confrontation with the realities of faith.
CSV Cultural Center // 107 Suffolk St. // May 10-14, Wed.-Sat. 8pm, Sat. & Sun. 3pm // Tickets here

A high school teacher of ours was obsessed with making us understand that x-rays, and everyday radiation in general, isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. He would be thrilled to see Deborah Stein’s Bone Portraits, which is a sort of history of the discovery of x-rays, using a vivid mélange of genres and theatrical styles, from horror to romance and vaudeville to video. It’s part of the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science and Technology Project – good to know that if American kids aren’t getting enough science in schools these days, at least there’s some money going into making it accessible off-off-Broadway.
Walkerspace // 46 Walker St. // Through May 20, Wed.-Sun. 8pm, Sat. also 3pm // Tickets via Theatermania

Noses, of course, you can’t x-ray, but Gogol hardly could have known that in 1835 when he wrote "The Nose," a short story starring that bulbous facial feature, which removes itself from its owner, a certain Major Kovalyov, and goes out for adventures in St. Petersburg. If any Russian story would seem an obvious candidate for adaptation with puppets, it’s this one, and Alissa Mello and Andy Roth’s hilarious, creative take on it is having a second run that you shouldn’t miss if you didn’t see it at Theater for the New City the first time around.
Collective:Unconscious // 279 Church St. // Through May 21, Thurs-Sun. 7:30pm // Tickets via Theatermania

2006_05_arts_troika.jpgThe Gothamist pick of the week is also based in Russian literature, but Peter Levy’s Troika is a tad less off the wall, as is entirely appropriate for a play about Tolstoy’s final days, when he wants to give up his worldly possessions as he prepares to die, infuriating and frightening his wife, who was very clearly not on her deathbed, but knew she probably would be before long if she let him give everything away. Levy, who pulled off a similar trick with a play about Oscar Wilde, won the 13th St. Repertory National Playwriting Contest with this piece, so you know it’s not a snoozer; Tolstoy might not have written about mobile noses, but he had a life fairly brimming with, well, drama, and Levy takes full advantage of that to fashion a biography that should quickly have you riveted.
13th St. Rep // 50 W. 13th St. // Through June 17, Thurs.-Sat. 7pm // Tickets via Theatermania // Photo by Billy Tompkins.