The Philadelphian’s Guide to Weekend Theater in New York City

Ticket theater critic David Fox on four shows worth hopping the Amtrak for, including the Keira Knightley-starring Thérèse Raquin.

The holiday season is almost here – often a perfect time for a weekend visit to New York City. For me, almost by definition, that includes a trip to the theater.

Well, I have good news and bad news. Bad news first: It will likely cost you more than $1,000 to get into Hamilton (if you even can).

But the good news is there’s more to life than Hamilton. It’s been a fine fall theater season in New York – especially for plays, both new and classic. Here are four current productions you may not know about — all of them thought-provoking (if not entirely festive) and very much worthy of your attention. Take advantage of the holidays to see some of them!

The Humans

Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Cassie Beck, Sarah Steele and Arian Moayed in "The Humans" | Photo by Joan Marcus

Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Cassie Beck, Sarah Steele and Arian Moayed in “The Humans” | Photo by Joan Marcus

Stephen Karam’s real-time examination of a multi-generational Thanksgiving family dinner is also a meditation on the underside of the American Dream. The Humans sneaks up on you, growing ever more complex, and Karam’s writing is infused with rueful humor – also insight, sweetness, and compassion. Director Joe Mantello’s production – far more complicated than it looks – is equal to Karam’s script, and the fine cast includes especially strong performances by Reed Birney and the wondrous Jayne Houdyshell as the parents. (Read my full review here.)

Through January 3rd, Roundabout Theatre Company, The Laura Pels Theatre, 111 West 46th Street,

A View from the Bridge

Mark Strong in “A View From the Bridge” | Photo by Jan Versweyveld

Mark Strong in “A View From the Bridge” | Photo by Jan Versweyveld

2015 would be Arthur Miller’s 100th birthday – and no celebration is likely to be more compelling than this brilliantly directed production of his torrid melodrama about forbidden sex. A View from the Bridge has received several revivals recently – what makes this one special is that director Ivo van Hove has reduced the play to its essence. No props, no furniture, no intermission, in a taut 110-minute evening that will leave you breathless. The whole cast is superb, with actor Mark Strong, in particular, a towering, electric presence. (Full review here.)

Through February 21st, Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th Street,

Fool for Love


Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda in “Fool for Love”

Three decades after it was written, Sam Shepard’s great play finally gets a high-octane Broadway debut. Fool for Love is at once a throbbing, up-close portrait of a troubled relationship, and an elegiac study of the disappearing West. Both aspects are fully realized in this fine production, under Daniel Aukin’s masterful direction, and featuring riveting performances by Nina Arianda and especially Sam Rockwell, who turns out to be the Sam Shepard actor I’ve always hoped for. (Full review here.)

Through December 13th, Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street,

Thérèse Raquin

Keira Knightley & Judith Light in TK | Photo by Joan Marcus

Keira Knightley & Judith Light in “Thérèse Raquin” | Photo by Joan Marcus

Emile Zola’s celebrated 1867 novel – adapted here by playwright Helen Edmundson – is part naturalistic study, part social critique, part love story, and part crime thriller. Almost 150 years later, Thérèse Raquin still feels fresh. Not all aspects of director Evan Cabnet’s earnest revival work equally well, but it is strikingly beautiful visually. Beautiful, too, is star Keira Knightley – even in unflattering period costumes, nothing can disguise the ravishingly perfect planes of that famous face. She’s good in it, too – excelling in using body language and facial expression to communicate her misery. (Full review here.)

Through January 3rd, Roundabout Theatre, Studio 54, 254 West 54th Street,