Summer Guide 2009: Theater

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Marathon 2009
After 31 years, Ensemble Studio Theatre’s one-act play festival is still going strong, with options ranging from the economy to a showdown between a nun and her most rebellious student. If unproven talent gets you down, the E.S.T. Festival is for you during the summer months. (May 22 to June 27, E.S.T., 549 W. 52nd St., at 10th Ave., 212-247-4982, www.ensemblestudiotheatre.org)

Strangers
An examination of green card marriages set against the backdrop of film noir (complete with cameos by femme fatales and private eyes), Strangers combines live music and video to explore how people live in our paranoid age, and how everyone wants something else. (May 28 to June 13, The Ontological Theater, 131 E. 10th St. at 2nd Ave., 212-352-3101, www.ontological.com)

Hudson Warehouse’s Shakespeare in the Park
This summer, give Central Park a break and check out Hudson Warehouse’s sixth season in Riverside Park, where the company presents The Tempest (June), Hamlet (July) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (August). (June to August, Riverside Park, W. 89th St. at Riverside Dr., www.hudsonwarehouse.com)

Bandit just loved Rock of Ages. The wired hair Jack Russell terrier mix is about 2 years old.

Bandit just loved Rock of Ages. The wired hair Jack Russell terrier mix is about 2 years old.

The Antidepressant Festival
If you find the summer heat depressingly oppressive, give The Antidepressant Festival a try. Nineteen shows are guaranteed to provide “instant and medicated happiness,” and ticket prices are much less than paying for enough booze to pass out without tossing and turning and sweating through your sheets. (June 5 to July 4, The Brick Theater, 575 Metropolitan Ave. at Union St., Brooklyn, 212-352-3101, www.bricktheater.com)

Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe
The Classical Theatre of Harlem presents an original adaptation of Moliere’s Tartuffe, the name has changed a bunch, but we’re sure now that it’s  Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe. Instead of taking place uptown at the Gatehouse in West Harlem, it’ll be on Theatre Row. Expect the original work, by Alfred Preisser and Randy Weiner, to be full of interesting twists and turns: it’s set during the apex of the Harlem Renaissance and inspired by the work of Father Divine. (June 12 to July 19, The Clurman Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St. betw. 9th & 10th Aves., 212-868-444, www.classicaltheatreofharlem.org.)

Heart of the City
Oscar-nominee Melissa Leo (Frozen River) hits the boards this summer in a “quintessential New York tale” about finding love on the Brooklyn IRT, young artists trying to survive the asphalt jungle and the correct way to make a matzo ball. (June 11 to 29, Theatre at 30th Street, 259 W. 30th St., at 7th Ave., 212-242-9113, www.heartofthecityplay.com)

The Wiz
Songbird Ashanti eases on down the road as Dorothy in this R&B version of The Wizard of Oz (remember Diana Ross in the film version?). For the third year in a row, Encores! presents a limited engagement of a Broadway show that has all the charm of summer stock, plus mountains more talent. (June 12 to July 5, NY City Center, 130 W. 56th St., at 6th Ave., 212-581-1212, www.nycitycenter.org)

Pebble-and-Cart Cycle: One-Line Tragedies
Conceived and directed by Polina Klimovitskaya, these one-line tragedies featuring puppets are the first half of a six-part cycle that combines folk legends, animal archetypes and religious rites to reveal the “theater of inner conflict.” (June 16 to 25, Dixon Place, 161 Chrystie St. at Delancey St., 212-219-0763, www.dixonplace.org)

The Comedy of Errors in Central Park
The scrappy little Boomerang Theater Company offers free Shakespeare in Central Park as well. This year it’s more comedy by the Bard. (June 20 to 28; July 11 to 19, Central Park at W. 69th St., the lawn between Strawberry Fields and Tavern on the Green, www.boomerangtheatre.org)

Barefoot in the Park
Sure, the Neil Simon comedy was just revived on Broadway and hasn’t aged all that well. But seeing the show staged in the tiny (and deliciously air-conditioned) MTS theater (and with an extra $5 for anyone who runs through the newly re-opened Washington Square Park) is perfect for a hot summer night when thinking too hard isn’t an option. (July 9 to July 26, Manhattan Theatre Source, 177 MacDougal St. at 8th St., 212-501-4751, www.thetheatresource.org)

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot
For the 16th summer in a row, The Drilling Company offers up a fun, low-rent alternative to Shakespeare in the Park. This year, parking lot attendants perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Measure for Measure. So pull up a hubcap and crack open a 40. (July 9 to Aug. 15, The Parking Lot, at the corner of Ludlow and Broome Sts., 212-877-0099, www.drillingcompany.org)

Thank You for Being a Friend
If Bea Arthur’s death has still got you bummed, try some communal healing at this musical parody, about roommates Blanchette, Dorthea, Roz and Sophie, and their feud with next-door-neighbor Lance Bass over his loud, outdoor gay sex parties. Last time that happened to us, we had to move. Thanks, Lance! (May 24 to July 12, The Kraine Theater, 85 E. 4th St., betw. 2nd & 3rd Aves., 212-352-3101, www.horsetrade.info)

Gorilla Rep
If you don’t have the budget for big sets, use the monuments the city gives you. Last summer, Gorilla Rep presented a beautiful version of Hamlet just outside the Cloisters. This July the company returns to Ft. Tryon Park’s Pinegrove with a new take on Joan of Arc, penned by Robert Ackerman. Then, in August, take in playwright Laura Lynn MacDonald’s new adaptation/translation of Ibsen’s wild fairy tale Peer Gynt—complete with masks and puppets—on and around Central Park’s Spirit Rock. (July & August, www.gorillarep.org)

East to Edinburgh Festival
Attention to direction is all in this festival—these shows are trying to reach the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, not moving on from it. This year includes a rock version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in case you can’t get enough Shakespeare between Memorial and Labor days. (July 14 to Aug. 2, 59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th St. at Park Ave., 212-279-4200, www.59e59.org)

Tally Ho!, or Navigating the Future
This kid-friendly musical—about a young bank teller’s adventures in high finance—is part of Theater for the New City’s annual summer street theater tour. This year it starts at Morningside Park and will continue in other parks and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs. (Aug. 2 to Sept. 13, various parks & locations, 212-254-1109, www.cityparksfoundation.org)
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The Hottest Free Ticket in Town

By Nick Broad
Every summer, the Public Theater offers free performances of Shakespeare and other classic works in Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. On stage this year will be one of the Bard’s most beloved comedies, Twelfth Night, starring Academy Award nominee Anne Hathaway as Viola and directed by Tony Award winner Daniel Sullivan (June 10 to July 12). The theater will also present The Bacchae, a Greek tragedy directed by Joanne Akalaitis, with music by Philip Glass (Aug. 11 to 30).
Sam Neuman, the theater’s press manager, spent a few minutes talking about the “insanely busy” summer season. Below is an edited transcript.

How did you choose Twelfth Night? We want to present something that’s in keeping with our mission and is popular with the Central Park crowd. This one is comic, and lasts two-and-a-half hours. Anne Hathaway’s character disguises herself as a man, and then it turns out she has an identical twin brother. It’s very fun, and always gets a good reaction.

We know the ticket line gets busy—how bad is it? There are always people who wait overnight for those tickets. There are even people who pay others to wait in line for them. Street musicians come out to entertain the crowd, others come around with food and daily newspapers, and people have picnics and play board games. A few times I’ve seen a man dressed up in a Shakespearean costume. Last year, for Hair, a lot of people got their retro clothing out.

What if you don’t want to wait in line? www.publictheater.org allows people to sign up for the chance of getting tickets online, but it’s not guaranteed. And if you don’t get a ticket in the park, there’s also a standby line, which forms as soon as the other tickets stop being sold.

What do you do if it rains? If it’s light, the performance goes on. One year we were forced to stop, as the stage for  Romeo and Juliet had become a pool of water. We get some delays, but there are very few rainouts.

How much preparation goes into each season? We begin rehearsals a month early. Then about a week beforehand, we do tech, which is where everyone rehearses on stage. They spend about a week doing 12-hour days; it’s an intense rehearsal schedule. People describe the experience as being a sort of summer camp. Something about being outdoors and with a collaborative theater, being out there with the elements.

Free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park are distributed on the day of the performance beginning at 1 p.m. at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Limit of two tickets per person. A limited number of tickets are also available the day of each performance online beginning June 10. Note: The Public Theater will not be distributing tickets downtown at 425 Lafayette St.

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