After 30 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 through June 27, E.S.T., 549 W. 52nd St. (at 10th Ave.), 212-247-4982, www.ensemblestudiotheatre.org
Central and Tompkins Square parks aren’t the only public spaces offering summertime culture to the masses: City Parks Foundation will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of its SummerStage series this year, offering up over 100 free concerts, dance pieces and plays to anyone who wants to brave the fresh air. Spread out over 16 parks in every borough, let SummerStage lure you out of icy movie theaters and into a communal experience. Mosquito bites included.
June 1 through Aug. 29, www.summerstage.org.
Planet Connections Theatre Festivity
Summer is the season for festivals, and The Planet Connections Theatre Festivity hails itself as “New York’s premiere eco-friendly theater festival.” Boasting 37 full productions (including a rock opera and an adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray) and several staged readings throughout June, this festival lacks the brand recognition of the increasingly bloated Fringe Fest, which makes it all the more deserving of your time.
June 3 through 27, various locations, www.planetconnectionsfestivity.com.
After the ignominy of Looking for Billy Haines, which used the real-life story of gay silent film star for its own navel-gazing, poorly plotted purposes, Modotti looks like a breath of fresh air. The story of photographer and silent film actress Tina Modotti, Wendy Beckett’s play follows Modotti’s fascinating life as it leads her to Mexico, where she falls in with photographer Edward Weston, Diego Rivera and Julio Mella. Think of it as a chance to learn about the Mexican art scene at the time without having to see Frida Kahlo’s unibrow.
June 8 through July 3, Acorn Theater, 410 W. 42nd St. (betw. 9th & 10th Aves.), 212-279-4200.
Shakespeare in the Park
The Public Theatre returns to two Shakespeare plays (The Winter’s Tale and Merchant of Venice) after last year’s foray into Greek tragedy with The Bacchae. Al Pacino as Shylock is already rumored to be moving to Broadway next season, months before the first performance. Use your summer as a chance to gloat to your friends about having seen it long before anyone else.
June 9 through Aug. 1, The Delacorte Theater, Central Park, enter park at W. 81st St. & Central Park West, 212-539-8500.
Thank You for Being a Friend
If you’re still riding the Betty White wave of love, join the other Whiteheads 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. A hit last summer, the show is back and gayer than ever. No word yet on whether last minute revisions will replace Lance with Ricky Martin.
June 13 through Aug. 1, The Kraine Theater, 85 E. 4th St. (betw. 2nd & 3rd Aves.), 212-352-3101.
The Little One
Broadway hasn’t been too kind to vampires in the past (Dance of the Vampires, Lestat), but pop culture’s fascination with them is too strong for Off-Off-Broadway to deny. Besides, James Comtois’ play, about a fledging vampire learning the ins and outs of fangy immortality, has fight choreography from downtown darling Qui Nguyen, of Vampire Cowboys. Let’s hope The Little One is more True Blood and less Twilight.
June 17 through July 10, The Kraine Theater, 85 E. 4th St. (betw. 2nd & 3rd Aves.), 212-352-3101.
Critics are a horrible people, cruel and arrogant; most actors would be thrilled to drive a stake through their hearts. That possibility becomes more likely in this play about a jaded theater critic who becomes entangled in a world of vampires (yes, more of them) after becoming obsessed with a young actress. It’s like the theater version of cougars obsessed with Robert Pattinson, except classy: The play was written by Broadway vet Conor McPherson.
June 17 through July 4, WorkShop Theater, 312 W. 36th St. (betw. 8th & 9th Aves.), 212-351-3101.
I’ll Be Damned
Musical theater newbies Rob Broadhurst and Brent Black (who created this show at NYU) got lucky with their first professional effort: Mary Testa has been announced to star in the production at The Vineyard. A musical about a friendless homeschooler who gets an offer he can’t refuse from Satan, I’ll Be Damned asks the question “Is there a way to make people like you without having to sell your soul to the devil?” The usual answer to this question when homeschoolers ask is “No.” But that may not be the case here.
July 1 through 18, The Vineyard, 108 E. 15th St. (betw. Irving Pl. and Union Sq. E.), 212-868-4444.
Ice Factory 2010
The critics’ darling comes to an unceremonious end this year as the Ohio Theatre falls prey to bad economics. But that doesn’t give you an excuse to miss out on the final six shows in the soon-to-be-missed festival, none of which seem tainted with the spoofy touch that mars so many other festival offerings.
July 7 through Aug. 14, Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster St. (betw. Broome & Spring Sts.), 212-966-4844; $15.
Shakespeare in the Parking Lot
The Drilling Company’s annual Shakespeare in the Parking Lot is back again this year for its 16th season, offering up Love’s Labours Lost and Julius Caesar in the municipal parking lot on the LES. For anyone who likes the smell of exhaust (and the absence of raccoons) with free Shakespeare, this is the place.
July 9 through Aug. 15, The Municipal Parking Lot (at Ludlow and Broome Sts.), 212-877-0099; Free.
In God’s Hat
This play, about two brothers who haven’t seen one another since one of them was sent to prison, involves pedophilia, family feuds and Aryan skinheads. Whether or not the play successfully juggles its wild-sounding plot remains to be seen, but odds are the proceedings won’t be boring.
July 14 through Aug. 7, Peter Jay Sharp Theater, 416 W. 42nd St. (betw. 9th & 10th Aves.), 212-279-4200.
2010 FringeNYC Festival
What would the dog days of summer be like without the Fringe Fest? Never mind that at this point, the fest is 95 percent vanity projects that somehow get produced, and only 5 percent worthwhile shows from new writers, directors and unknown actors. It’s a New York institution now, so get ready for the 14th year of theater taking over Downtown.
Aug. 13 through 29, various locations, www.fringenyc.org.