Thursday, February 2, 2023

Five Plays to Anticipate in 2015-2016

Back in April, we spotlighted five enticing musicals on the 2015-2016 cultural docket. Now, with most companies having unveiled their seasons, we’re looking at five plays that are sure to provoke. Mark those calendars now.

5. Angry Fags (Island City Stage, Nov. 12-Dec. 13, 2015, at the Abyss Theatre)

These purveyors of gay-themed theater will be fresh off arguably the strongest 2014-2015 theater season enjoyed by any South Florida company when they open what appears to be another string of potential hits. Topher Payne’s “Angry Fags” is an outrageous, anarchic slice of social commentary that imagines a world in which the gay-bashed among us strike back with rage of their own. American politics, bomb-building and pistachios figure into the story, but the play already had us at its punchy tagline: “An Oscar Wilde-meets-Fight Club fever dream.” To sweeten the deal even more, this will be the first play in Island City Stage’s expansive new home, the 70-seat Abyss Theatre in Wilton Manors.

4. Stripped (Zoetic Stage, Nov. 5-22 at Arsht Center)

A clever double meaning defines the title of this brand-new play by Christopher Demos-Brown, one of South Florida’s handful of world-class playwrights (His “Fear Up Harsh,” in 2013, won two Carbonell Awards). One of the show’s protagonists, Masha, is a Russian immigrant, a mother and stripper—ahem, we mean exotic dancer—who, because of her profession, is consequently stripped of her child by the state. Taking an insider’s view of the complicated structure of child custody laws, the show features sympathetic characters including a government official and a pair of prospective adoptive parents. Demos-Brown wittily and movingly analyzes this complex situation from all perspectives.

3. Death of a Salesman (New Theatre, May-June 2016, at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center)

Who needs spoiler alerts? The conclusion of Arthur Miller’s titanic 1949 masterwork is revealed in its title, but that hasn’t dampened the anticipatory tingle every time “Death of a Salesman” shows up in a season. This has included four Broadway revivals, most recently featuring the final stage performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman. The play’s themes of the loss of the American dream, mental illness and income equality feel perennially relevant, and while New Theatre typically specializes in, well, new work, the company usually excels at each season’s token classic.

2. It’s Only a Play (GableStage, dates pending, at the Biltmore Hotel)

GableStage hasn’t announced its full season yet, but it did drop a few crumbs via carrier pigeon in efforts to woo subscribers. Last season, the company did such an extraordinary job with Terence McNally’s “Mothers and Sons” that we’re thrilled to find that Artistic Director Joseph Adler has booked another McNally work, the 2014 Broadway hit “It’s Only a Play,” which is up for a Tony this weekend. Just about every playwright, at one point another, pens a self-reflexive Theater About Theater play. In this case, the situation will be achingly familiar to anyone who has spent their creative energies on even one play: It’s set in a Manhattan home immediately following an opening night, as the actors, producer, director, playwright and gathered friends wait for the overnight reviews. The plot is thin, but McNally’s inspiration brings out the best of his caustic, scabrous wit.

1. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Palm Beach Dramaworks, Jan. 29-Feb. 28)

South Florida drama lovers have a lucky year ahead of them; between “Long Day’s Journey” and “Death of a Salesman,” they’ll have the opportunity to ingest two of the frequently short-listed considerations for Best Play of the Century. Eugene O’Neill based this four-act magnum opus at least in part on his own family, presented here as a mother, father and two sons, whose demons are loosed over the course of one sweltering night in August. As this story goes, when O’Neill was writing this granddaddy of all dysfunctional-family dramas, in 1940-41, the actions scraped so close to the bone that his wife would find him weeping over the typewriter. Prepare to be transported and shaken up.

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