Who: Judith Ivey, T. R. Knight, Kate MacCluggage, Joe Morton, Frances Evans
What: Virtual readings of 2018 play
Where: Barrington Stage Company (BSC)
When: Friday, October 30, $25, 7:30, and Saturday, October 31, $25, 7:30
Why: In the spring of 2018, Pittsfield-based Barrington Stage Company (BSC) premiered Mark St. Germain’s Typhoid Mary, a play about Mary Mallon, the Irish cook who spread typhoid fever in New York. The company will now be hosting a prerecorded virtual reading of the work, on October 30 and 31 at 7:30, featuring two-time Tony winner Judith Ivey as the title character, T. R. Knight as Father Michael McKuen, Kate MacCluggage as Dr. Ann Saltzer, Emmy winner Joe Morton as Dr. William Mills, and Frances Evans reprising her role as Sarah; original director Matthew Penn is back as well. “As the pandemic continues into its eighth month in the US and an administration rails against the fact-based findings of doctors and medical advisors, it felt like an appropriate time to revisit Mark St. Germain’s play, where arguments between God and science take center stage,” BSC founder and artistic director Julianne Boyd said in a statement. During the Covid-19 crisis, BSC has previously presented virtual readings of Rob Ulin’s Judgment Day and Jeffrey Hatcher’s Three Viewings as well as St. Germain’s new work, Eleanor, with Harriet Harris as the first lady.
Who: Jason Tam, Arnie Burton, Morgan Siobhan Green, Khiry Walker, Dan Domingues, Courtney Thomas, Jonathan Silverstein
What: Livestreamed version of classic Orson Welles radio broadcast and talkback
Where: Keen Company Hear/Now
When: Friday, October 30, $25, 8:00
Why: On October 30, 1938, Raymond Rocello and His Orchestra were performing over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network from the Meridian Room at the Park Plaza Hotel in downtown Manhattan when a news bulletin broke in, announcing that there had been explosions on Mars, with objects now heading toward Earth. Believing that a Martian invasion was under way, Americans were in a panic and took to the streets and highways. They would eventually find out that it was merely an audio adaptation of H. G. Wells’s 1898 novel The War of the Worlds, with a script written by Howard Koch and directed by Orson Welles for his Mercury Theatre company. Eighty-two years later, with a pandemic and presidential election threatening the safety of the United States, New York’s Keen Company is presenting an all-star benefit livestream reading of the radio drama, featuring Jason Tam, Arnie Burton, Morgan Siobhan Green, Khiry Walker, Dan Domingues, and Courtney Thomas, with original music by Paul Brill. “Since the early days of the pandemic, I became increasingly obsessed with old time radio and the ways these early pioneers provoked their audience to use their imagination in new ways,” Keen artistic director Jonathan Silverstein said in a statement. “One of the greatest of these programs is Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds, which skillfully used ‘fake news’ to create real-life panic on October 30, 1938. I look forward to sharing this one-of-a-kind revival, which will not only entertain but also bring to light some eerily similar themes between its original broadcast and today.” Tickets for the one-night-only show, which will be followed by an interactive talkback, are $25, supporting such Keen initiatives as its Hear/Now audio programming, which will continue in February with Lucille Fletcher’s Sorry, Wrong Number, starring Marsha Mason, in addition to works by Pearl Cleage, Kate Cortesi, finkle, James Anthony Tyler, and Melissa Li and Kit Yan. What better way to prepare for a virtual Halloween?
Who: DeLanna Studi, Gary Farmer, Derek Garza, Danforth Comins, Shyla Lefner, Enrico Nassi, Max Woertendyke, Daniel Pearce, Christopher Ryan Grant, Mary Kathryn Nagle, Laurie Woolery, more
What: New York online premiere and Q&As
Where: Theatre for a New Audience online
When: Friday, October 30, free with RSVP, 7:00, and Sunday, November 1, free with RSVP, 2:00
Why: Theatre for a New Audience debuts its new “Artists & Community” programming with the New York virtual premiere of Mary Kathryn Nagle’s Sovereignty. The story takes place in present-day Oklahoma, when the inherent jurisdiction of Cherokee Nation is being challenged in the Supreme Court, and 1835, when ancestors of the defense lawyers are deciding whether to accept Andrew Jackson’s Treaty of New Echota. The show debuted in January 2018 at DC’s Arena Stage and then ran last fall at Marin County Theatre in California. Directed by Laurie Woolery, the online TFANA production features DeLanna Studi as Sara Polson, Gary Farmer as Major Ridge/Roger Ridge Polson, Derek Garza as Elias/Waite, Danforth Comins as Andrew Jackson/Ben, Shyla Lefner as Sally (Sarah Bird Northrup)/Flora Ridge, Enrico Nassi as John Ridge, Max Woertendyke as Samuel Worcester/Mitch, Daniel Pearce as John Ross/Jim Ross, and Christopher Ryan Grant as White Chorus Man. There will be two live performances, on October 30 at 7:00 and November 1 at 2:00, each followed by a Q&A that puts the play, which has been further refined by Nagle (Sliver of a Full Moon, Manahatta), into context of 2020, including the July decision in the McGirt v. Oklahoma case.
Who: Ed O’Neill, David Alan Grier, Alicia Stith, Richard Thomas, Phylicia Rashad
What: Virtual benefit reading
When: Thursday, October 29, $5, 8:00
Why: TodayTix, the discount entertainment site, is keeping up its mission to offer affordable theater with “Spotlight on Plays from Broadway’s Best Shows,” seven virtual plays featuring all-star casts, livestreaming for a mere five bucks (and available for viewing for seventy-two hours). The series kicked off October 14 with Gore Vidal’s the Best Man, with John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Vanessa Williams, Zachary Quinto, Phylicia Rashad, Reed Birney, and Elizabeth Ashley. Instead of being performed in little Zoom boxes, the actors were standing in regular-size rooms, not sitting in their kitchens or offices, surrounded on the computer screen by wallpaper that helped define the location. On October 21, Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth featured Lucas Hedges, Paul Mescal, and Grace Van Patten, directed by Lila Neugebauer. Next up for the newly redubbed TomorrowTix is Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet’s Race, which debuted at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in 2009 with Kerry Washington, David Alan Grier, James Spader, and Richard Thomas; Grier and Thomas are back for the virtual reading of the work, which deals with a racially charged sexual assault, joined by Ed O’Neill and Alicia Stith, with Rashad directing.
The series continues November 12 with Patti LuPone, Rebecca Pidgeon, and Sophia Macy in Boston Marriage, written and directed by Mamet; November 19 with Alan Cumming, Constance Wu, Samira Wiley, K. Todd Freeman, and Ellen Burstyn in Uncle Vanya, narrated by Gabriel Ebert and directed by Danya Taymor; December 3 with Donald Margulies’s Time Stands Still, starring original cast members Laura Linney, Alicia Silverstone, Eric Bogosian, and Brian d’Arcy James, once again directed by Daniel Sullivan; and December 10 with Colman Domingo, S. Epatha Merkerson, Tamberla Perry, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Heather Simms, Laurie Metcalf, Carrie Coon, David Morse, Kristine Nielsen, and Annie McNamara in writer-director Robert O’Hara’s Barbecue. Proceeds from “Spotlight on Plays” benefit the Actor’s Fund.
Who: Nine New York City theater companies
What: Multilingual production of John C. Moffitt and Sinclair Lewis’s play It Can’t Happen Here
Where: National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene
When: Wednesday, October 28, suggested donations, 1:00
Why: In his 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis warned us that America was ripe for takeover by a demagogue, in this case Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, who becomes president and sends the country swirling toward fascism. Of course, we didn’t listen to protagonist Doremus Jessup in 2016, and too many people are not listening again. On October 28 at 1:00, with the presidential election less than a week away, nine New York City theater companies are presenting a livestreamed reading of the 1936 theatrical adaptation by John C. Moffitt and Lewis, reminding us one more time what we are facing if the current administration is allowed to continue. The play will rotate between Yiddish, English, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, and Hebrew, staged virtually by the Israeli Artist Project, Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò and KIT Kairos Italy Theater, Turkish American Repertory Theater & Entertainment – TARTE, NY Classical, New Heritage Theatre Group, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, Playful Substance, Repertorio, and event host and creator National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. We can keep saying that it can’t happen here all we want, but it is, and each one of us needs to do something to stop it, so donate, watch the plays, tell your friends, and, most important, vote. Below is the cast and crew for this important project; the shows will be available for viewing through November 1 at 1:00.
Israeli Artist Project (with Ronit Asheri, Iris Bahr, Gili Getz, and Yoni Vendriger, directed by Bahr and translated by Vendriger), Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò and KIT Kairos Italy Theater (with Mariluna Beacy, Laura Caparrotti, Emanuele Capoano, Alice Lussiana Parente, Mario Merone, Caterina Nonis, Giacomo Rocchini, Irene Turri, Giorgia Valenti, and Massimo Zordan, directed and translated by Caparrotti), National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (with Rachel Botchan, Spencer Chandler, Motl Didner, Kirk Geritano, Eileen F. Haggerty, Richard Kass, Zalmen Mlotek, Lauren Schaffel, Steven Skybell, Suzanne Toren, Tatiana Wechsler, and Hy Wolfe, directed and translated by Binyumin Resler and Benson Inge), NY Classical (with Tristan Biber, L. Peter Calendar, Kristen Calgaro, Stephen D’Ambrose, Nehassaiu deGannes, Will Dixon, Barbara Kingsley, Jillian Lindig, John Michalski, Evan Moore-Call, Kevin Orton, and David Shih, directed by Stephen Burdman), New Heritage Theatre Group (with Peter Coleman, Robin Galloway, Aaron Greenberg, Jesse Kramer, and Jake Robertson, directed by Carlton Taylor), Pan Asian Repertory Theatre (with Dinh James Doan, Eric Elizaga, David Huynh, Juni Li, Shigeko Sara Suga, and Viet Vo, directed by Chongren Fan), Playful Substance (with Nicole Amaral, Tori Barron, Jeorge Bennett Watson, Marie Donna Davis, Brandon Fox, Cristina Garcia Leon, Dan Kellmer, Kim Rios Lin, Dan Renkin, and Lauren Lindsey White, directed by Bree O’Connor), Repertorio (with Zulema Clares, Erick González, Gerardo Gudiño, German Jaramillo, Luis Carlos de la Lombana, and Gonzalo Trigueros, directed by Leyma López and translated by Rafael Sánchez), and Turkish American Repertory Theater & Entertainment – TARTE (with Ayse Eldek Richardson, Ezgi Erdoğan Cohen, Defne Halman, Feryal Kilisli, and Emre Yilmaz, directed and translated by Richardson).
Who: Matthew Broderick, Jill Eikenberry, John Epperson, Larry Pine, Wallace Shawn, Claudia Shear, Annapurna Sriram, Michael Tucker; Kristen Johnston, Lili Taylor, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Thomas Bradshaw, Liam Craig, Melissa Errico, Carlos Leon, Emily Cass McDonnell, Maulik Pancholy, Stephen Park, Bill Sage
What: The New Group reunion readings of two plays by Wallace Shawn
Where: “The New Group Off Stage”
When: Wednesday, October 28, $25, 7:00, and Thursday, October 29, $25, 7:00 (available for viewing through November 29)
Why: In his 2011 essay “Why I Call Myself a Socialist: Is the World Really a Stage?,” beloved playwright, actor, and voice artist Wallace Shawn explains, “We are not what we seem. We are more than what we seem. The actor knows that. And because the actor knows that hidden inside himself there’s a wizard and a king, he also knows that when he’s playing himself in his daily life, he’s playing a part, he’s performing, just as he’s performing when he plays a part on stage. He knows that when he’s on stage performing, he’s in a sense deceiving his friends in the audience less than he does in daily life, not more, because on stage he’s disclosing the parts of himself that in daily life he struggles to hide. He knows, in fact, that the role of himself is actually a rather small part, and that when he plays that part he must make an enormous effort to conceal the whole universe of possibilities that exists inside him.”
It’s inconceivable that you’re unfamiliar with the cuddly, adorable, shaggy-haired Shawn, who has appeared in more than one hundred films, including numerous Woody Allen movies, as well as voicing Rex in the Toy Story franchise and portraying a fictionalized version of himself in Louis Malle’s reality-busting My Dinner with Andre, in which he shares a meal with theater director Andre Gregory. Shawn’s most famous performance is, no doubt, as Sicilian mastermind Vizzini in Rob Reiner’s 1987 fairy-tale classic, The Princess Bride. The scenes between Shawn as Vizzini and wrestling legend Andre the Giant as his cohort Fezzik are among the film’s most treasured. (My Movie with Andre?) Shawn, the son of famed New Yorker editor William Shawn and journalist Cecille Shawn, is also an esteemed playwright, winning an Obie in 1974 for Our Late Night and earning kudos galore for 1996’s The Designated Mourner, which, in several productions, was directed by Gregory, with Shawn playing Jack in stage and radio iterations.
In the age of coronavirus, with theaters shuttered, Shawn reunited last month with the cast of The Princess Bride for a virtual reading and discussion benefiting the Wisconsin Democratic Party. Now the New Group is celebrating him with “The New Group Off Stage: Two by Wallace Shawn,” a pair of live, virtual readings of productions the company has previously staged. First up, on October 28, is 2017’s Evening at the Talk House, which in my review I said was an “utterly delightful, deliciously wicked black comedy, one of the most gregarious shows you’re ever likely to see, despite its dark undertones.” As you walked into the Signature’s Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre, the actors were circulating on the set at the center, and the audience was invited to speak with them, joining a small, intimate cocktail party before the main event. The original all-star cast is back for the reading — Matthew Broderick, Jill Eikenberry, John Epperson, Larry Pine, Claudia Shear, Annapurna Sriram, Michael Tucker, and Shawn — but that preliminary interaction will be gone, changing the dynamic between audience and performer even more than in most Zoom renditions.
The next night, October 29, the New Group will present Shawn’s 1985 play, Aunt Dan and Lemon, which the company revived in 2004 at the Acorn Theatre; back for the virtual show are Kristen Johnston as Aunt Dan and Lili Taylor as Lemon along with Maulik Pancholy, Marcia Stephanie Blake, Liam Craig, Melissa Errico, Carlos Leon, Bill Sage, Emily Cass McDonnell, Stephen Park, and Thomas Bradshaw replacing Isaach De Bankole and Layla Khoshnoudi stepping in for Brooke Sunny Moriber. Ten percent of the proceeds of the Talk House reading will go to City Harvest, while the same amount of the Aunt Dan proceeds will go to the Center for Constitutional Rights. (Both readings will be available for viewing through November 29.) The New Group’s virtual pandemic programming has featured excellent reunion readings of The True and The Jacksonian in addition to the ongoing “Why We Do It” interview series with such alums as Cynthia Nixon, Bobby Cannavale, Edie Falco, Suzanne Vega, and Natasha Lyonne; here’s hoping that Shawn soon tells us why he does it. (My Dinner with Wallace, anyone?)
Who: Joshua Malina, David Broza, Nita M. Lowey, Joel Grey, Shoshana Bean, Tiffany Haddish, Yemin Orde Youth Village Choir, more
What: Virtual benefit
When: Wednesday, October 28, free with RSVP, 8:00
Why: ImpactIsrael is a Maryland-based organization that “provides the support needed to transform immigrant and at-risk youth into productive members of Israeli society through value-driven education and support. ImpactIsrael works to improve the education, security, health, and welfare of over 25,000 Israelis by touching lives across all boundaries — religious, secular, Jews, Arabs, Druze, and Bedouins.” On October 28 at 8:00, it will be presenting “A Celebration of Gratitude and Hope,” an online benefit for Israel’s next generation of leaders. The evening will be emceed by Joshua Malina (A Few Good Men, Scandal) and features appearances by Israeli singer-songwriter David Broza (East Jerusalem West Jerusalem, At Masada: The Sunrise Concert featuring Shawn Colvin & Jackson Browne), U.S. Representative Nita M. Lowey (who will receive the Tikkun Ha’Lev Award), singer and stage actress Shoshana Bean (Wicked, Waitress), comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip, The Carmichael Show), legendary actor and director Joel Grey (Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish), and the Yemin Orde Youth Village Choir, among others. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted, including at special levels that will qualify you for listings on a digital scroll, promotional materials, and recognition with a commemorative gift.