CULTURE & ARTS

That American Apparel Play And Other Off-Broadway Shows To See This Month

Because the Today Tix lottery let you down again this month.

Off Broadway plays can get really weird. Like, watermelon-being-smashed-to-bits-on-stage weird. So when the basic Broadway lineup starts to feel tired, it can be difficult to navigate theater options outside of seeing "Wicked" a fourth time. Here to help you avoid being needlessly splattered with fresh fruit, we bring you the October edition of our monthly round-up of Off and Off Off Broadway shows.

"Barbecue"

Great For: AA sponsors who can handle the drama

The brilliant Robert O’Hara (previously of “Bootycandy”) has woven his brand of raw yet loving humor into "Barbecue." The two-act dramedy is centered around a white and black version of the same family, each staging an intervention under the guise of a party in the park. As the scenes switch from group to group, anticipating the arrival of their beloved addict, what emerges is a portrait of the intricacies of race within the context of two equally dysfunctional families.

The parallel universe premise mounts to an intriguing twist just before intermission, which allows O’Hara to poke at canned sitcom humor while also painting with the broader brush of racial exploration. Basically, imagine both a black and white trailer trash version of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” but with a compelling plot. (Note: Yes, as the crowd realized through a series of scattered whispers last Sunday night: that woman in the Aerosmith T-shirt is Yoga Jones from "Orange Is the New Black.")

In performances until Nov. 1 at the Newman Theatre at The Public.

“Unseamly”

Great For: Anyone who can honestly say they have never shopped at American Apparel

There’s a fine line between a play about sexism and a play that is sexist. When it comes to “Unseamly” -- the “unofficial” American Apparel play by Dov Charney’s cousin -- that line is as about as clear as the hemming on a cheap bodycon dress after it has been washed too many times.  

In terms of intention, “Unseamly” would at least appear to be the former. It sets out to explore the experiences of a young woman who has been sexually abused by a knock-off Dov Charney figure (for legal reasons, pretty much). The purpose of the show is to unpack the structures of power that control the truth, but it falls victim to some of the patriarchal temptations it sets out to critique (e.g. our protagonist's lawyer prodding for details over her use of a vibrator.) Also, full disclosure, there’s an interpretive dance scene meant to simulate sex that is sort of like what would happen if Cha Cha DiGregorio lived in the ‘80s.

In performances until Nov. 1 at Urban Stages.

“The Elephant in Every Room I Enter”

Great For: Energetic people with or without Tourette syndrome

Gardiner Comfort takes on the realities of living with Tourette syndrome in this hyper-personal one-man show. Using a mix of experimental elements, including Tourette-inspired choreography, he recreates the experience of his condition, mapping out the textures of his world over a week-long conference. The most interesting aspect of the show is its implicit discomfort. As Comfort presents different tics with a comedic bent, he challenges his audience to laugh, while also forcing them to wonder whether they should.

In performances unti Oct. 31 at La Mama Theater.

“The Elephant in Every Room I Enter”

Great For: Energetic people with or without Tourette syndrome

Gardiner Comfort takes on the realities of living with Tourette syndrome in this hyper-personal one-man show. Using a mix of experimental elements, including Tourette-inspired choreography, he recreates the experience of his condition, mapping out the textures of his world over a week-long conference. The most interesting aspect of the show is its implicit discomfort. As Comfort presents different tics with a comedic bent, he challenges his audience to laugh, while also forcing them to wonder whether they should.

In performances unti Oct. 31 at La Mama Theater.

“Séance”

Great For: Ghosts who tend to be a bit gullible

Interactive theater can mean a lot of different things. In the spectrum ranging from “Here Lies Love” (standing and dancing) to “Then She Fell” (being caressed and read a bedtime story in a dark room), “Séance” is somewhere in the middle. Jason Suran uses the small round-table space, which can’t accurately be called a theater, to craft an intimate setting for a mix of history, storytelling and magic tricks. Those who regularly attend psychics may be disappointed, though even a cynic could have a good time. Disclaimer: You probably won’t get to talk to your long-lost great aunt during the show, but there is a glow-in-the-dark maraca that appears to float in the dark on its own.

In performances until Oct. 31 at Highlight Studios.

"The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey”

Great For: Your bigoted grandma who means well

“The Absolute Brightness of Lenonard Pelkey” is a one-man show about a detective investigating the death of a young gay man. He interviews the small town's cast of characters, building a post-mortem look back at the titular character and learning his place in the community. What unfolds is the sort of outwardly empowering play that could double as an after-school special. Like a lot of art about garnering acceptance, it’s unfortunately another story about the experience of being gay that is really about straight people learning to accept gay experiences. Still, James Lecesne delivers a charismatic and heartfelt performance that redeems his sentimental whodunit beyond its heteronormative pitfalls. 

In performances until Oct. 18 at the Westside Theatre.

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