Six Picks: Recommendations from theater critic Christopher Wallenberg
Top shows in New York this fall, including plays by David Mamet, Enda Walsh, and newcomer Tarell Alvin McCraney.
Written in the wake of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill Senate confirmation imbroglio in 1991, David Mamet's polarizing drama "Oleanna" is back. Its Broadway debut is sure to sharply divide audiences once again with its fierce sexual politics, clashing cultural perspectives, and potent exploration of sexual harassment. The blazing story centers on a showdown between a coddled college professor, John (Bill Pullman), and his struggling young student, Carol (Julia Stiles) (through March 27, 2010; oleannaonbroadway.com).
Former paramours Jude Law and Sienna Miller are both making their Broadway debuts in revivals of two of the great theatrical classics – and each is getting a shot at showing off acting prowess. Law earned kudos for his dazzling performance in London last summer as the mercurial Prince of Denmark – the prototypical angry young man – in Shakespeare's "Hamlet" (through Dec. 6; HamletBroadway.com).
Meanwhile, Miller is tackling August Strindberg's seminal modern tragedy "After Miss Julie," which adapter Patrick Marber has transported from 19th-century Sweden to 1945 England on the eve of the Labour Party's landslide election victory (through Dec. 6; roundabouttheatre.org).
Although the songs of Afrobeat icon and Nigerian human rights activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti provide the thrust for this new show, don't call "Fela!" a jukebox musical. It's too rousing and artful for that term. Conceived and directed by choreographer Bill T. Jones, the musical (which premièred off-Broadway in 2008) traces Kuti's journey, from his rise as a folk hero and pop icon to his imprisonment as a political dissident to his run for the Nigerian presidency. Is it hagiography? Maybe, but you can't deny the primal exuberance of the storytelling. Previews begin Oct. 19 (felaonbroadway.com).
'The Brother/Sister Plays'
African-American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney is one of the hottest names in the theater world right now, celebrated as a lyrical and ambitious new voice. The Public Theater is mounting his poetic trilogy, "The Brother/Sister Plays," which include "The Brothers Size," "In the Red and Brown Water," and "Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet." Inspired by the mythologies and rituals of West Africa's Yoruba culture and his life growing up in inner-city housing projects, the plays explore themes of identity, regret, and freedom versus family responsibility (through Dec. 13; publictheater.org).
'The New Electric Ballroom'
Irish playwright Enda Walsh is one of the most refreshing voices in contemporary theater. His plays about kooky characters who can't let go of the past percolate with insight. His latest work, "The New Electric Ballroom," a companion piece to last year's "The Walworth Farce," is about three cloistered sisters who each night morbidly reenact a heart-wrenching evening from decades ago. Into their lives walks a lonely fishmonger and the possibility of salvation (through Nov. 22; stannswarehouse.org).