Nonprofit Theater Round Up: Fall 2015

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve been seeing more plays lately, and nonprofit theater offers a great selection of interesting, thought-provoking shows. Grabbing big stars with short, limited engagement runs, both Roundabout Theatre Company and Manhattan Theatre Club have started their seasons with good shows and amazing performances.

Old Times, starring Clive Owen, Kelly Reilly, and Eve Best, was an intriguing production with an excellent set. Expect Christine Jones to be nominated for set design come the spring. The record-shaped floor imperceptibly spins throughout the show, which was such a neat and unexpected trick. I hadn’t even noticed the stage was moving until halfway during the show, when I wondered how the sofa ended up all the way over there. The show started with bright flashes of photographs that would later come to life during the course of the show. During the talkback with director Douglas Hodge, he mentioned that he would love to have the show start again from the beginning as soon as the show ended and just continue in an endless loop. I love that idea! The show is confusing and so short that I think it’s a feasible idea. Even after multiple viewings, I’m sure I would still have questions, which is the beauty of this show.

Next, I saw Fool for Love, which interested me most because I’ve never gotten to see Nina Arianda in person, and I feel like she is a rising powerhouse in this new generation of Broadway stars. Another head scratcher of a show (are clear plotlines banned from non-profit theaters?) with great performances, I loved Arianda and Sam Rockwell together, though then felt guilty about it. I was unexpectedly rocked from the combustion that is May and Eddie’s relationship.

Thérèse Raquin was a great show that I absolutely loved. It was like a twisted, dark Romeo & Juliet that I found mesmerizing. I know Keira Knightley is the draw (who deftly moved between her moments of quiet introspection, repressed and stifled housewife to an fiery and passionate woman) but I couldn’t take my eyes off of Matt Ryan. Tony darling Judith Light and Gabriel Ebert (my favorite in Casa Valentina, though sorely missed in Act II) were both phenomenal as expected. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear those four names announced during award season. Once again, Roundabout provided a fantastic set with a built-in river that provided great action. The little attic apartment of Laurent terrified me, but was an amazing use of space, though if I were Ryan, I would be scared for my life every show. You can’t have another Brett Michaels at the Tonys moment of your hands!

I love that nonprofit theater is able to tackle darker, more obscure pieces of theater that are deemed less commercial. I’ve gotten a chance to get to know some great pieces of literature, though I’m afraid many of these incredible performances will be forgotten by the spring. A hotbed for Hollywood stars, what nonprofit theater has failed to do is attract diversity. To reach a more diverse audience, you need to start with more diverse talent. While I have thoroughly enjoyed the shows I saw in the fall, I’m hoping that the spring will bring more colorful faces to the stage.

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