Torch Song is this season’s hot gay ticket, but there are many more noteworthy and nontraditional plays off-Broadway.
If you can’t stomach another cookie-cutter rom-com or condescending melodrama, check out these five unconventional shows that recently opened on the New York stage.
After the BlastJeremy Daniel
In her provocative and carefully considered cautionary tale, Zoe Kazan drags relationship drama deep underground to an Ikea-decorated dystopia, where humanity has retreated following a global environmental disaster. If you somehow tire of Cristin Miloti (How I Met Your Mother) and William Jackson Harper (The Good Place) as a couple arguing over reproduction and depression, there’s an adorable robot aid to push all your buttons.
Claire Tow Theater through November 19.
Picture it: New York, 1958. Joe Papp, founder of the Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park, is still struggling to keep his fledgling troupe afloat. Ironically, there’s nothing theatrical about Richard Nelson’s bio-play, starring John Magaro (Carol, OINTB) as the pompous but passionate visionary. It’s audaciously naturalistic—actors sit and eat for long stretches, speaking in hushed tones—which turns audiences into eavesdroppers.
Public Theater through December 10.
The Last MatchJoan Marcus
I only follow sports when they’re onstage. In Roundabout’s exhilarating production of Anna Ziegler’s winning drama, attractive dynamos Wilson Bethel and Alex Mickiewicz score as rival tennis pros—an aging American hero and rising Russian bad boy—facing off at a U.S. Open semifinal. Peeking inside their heads, the show serves a portrait of athletes as mortal gods with insatiable ambition. Despite pantomimed strokes, they’ve got real balls.
Laura Pels Theatre through December 24.
Club-sandwiched between three women who share her love-hate relationship with food, Lisa Lampanelli chows down on weight struggles and body image in her confessional comedy, mixing powerful monologues with stand-up and sketch on a kitchenette set. Some gags are predictably tasteless—cupcake bottoms cue a zinger about Chelsea guys—but it’s easy to swallow the message of loving yourself no matter your size. Can they get an amen?
Westside Theatre through November 19.
What We’re Up AgainstJoan Marcus
Set in an architectural firm and punctuated by a fun ’90s soundtrack, Smash creator Teresa Rebeck’s satisfying comedy plays like a workplace sitcom—and it totally works. Marg Helgenberger (CSI) and Krysta Rodriguez (Trial & Error) crackle as colleagues who turn on each other in the face of misogyny. Though written in 1992, it feels distressingly timely. You don’t know whether to chuckle or cry when one woman asks, “Why is it still like this?”
WP Theater through December 3.