New York City's Fab Offbeat Theaters

Performance fills this city, not only on Broadway, but elsewhere, with exciting works, both classic and innovative.

If you’re craving theater in New York, your first instinct may be to hightail it over to Times Square and see what play or musical still has a few open seats. But Broadway isn’t the only option for live entertainment—Off-Broadway shows are no less worthy of your attention. The productions can be mesmerizing, inventive and just as moving as their more expensive counterparts. And don’t forget: Off-Broadway is where “Hamilton” and “The Band’s Visit” both got their start. Here are some of our favorite off-beat theaters.

La MaMa

La MaMa Since the 1960s, La MaMa has been a laboratory for untraditional productions from emerging and established artists. Initially a single, subterranean theater, La MaMa now holds programming in its three-building campus including theatrical productions, educational series, readings and visual-art exhibitions. During March 2018, La MaMa presents the climate change-centric “Extreme Whether” and “Distant Observer: Tokyo/New York Correspondence,” a collaboration between two playwrights and developed in Tokyo. Tickets for performances are $25 at most. 

Sweeney Todd

Barrow Street Theatre

Immersive theater continues to have its moment with the Tooting Arts Club production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” at the Barrow Street Theatre in the West Village. Rather than placing the action in a traditional venue, the play is staged within an exact replica of the London pie shop Harrington’s—the site of the show’s first run in 2014. You can even get an on-site “pie and mash” dinner before the performance begins. Fair warning though: Not only is “Sweeney Todd” bloody, this production is also not cheap. Partial-view seats start at $55, and the optional pre-performance meal costs $22.50.

Daryl Roth Theatre

Originally the site of the Union Square Savings Bank, the Daryl Roth Theatre is now the current residence for “In & Of Itself,” a one man show written by and starring magician Derek DelGaudio. Opening April 2017, “In & Of Itself” has extended its initial 10-week run three times, thanks to DelGaudio’s power to amaze even the most jaded of audience members. If DelGaudio’s name doesn’t ring a bell, you may recognize that of the executive producer: Neil Patrick Harris. 

Rap Guide to Consciousness

SoHo Playhouse

Once the site of General George Washington’s headquarters, the building was transformed into a theater in the 1920s before coming under the direction of Edward Albee in the 1960s. Now, the SoHo Playhouse is host to both long-running, weekly shows and limited engagements. In March, two award-winning, one-person productions take the stage: “Nanette,” from the Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby, and “Rap Guide to Consciousness,” from the Canadian rapper, playwright and educator Baba Brinkman. This month also marks the final performances of “Broad Comedy,” the highly acclaimed, all-female, weekly musical parody show. 

59E59

Home to three theaters, 59E59 hosts a steady stream of national and international works, providing a platform for non-profit theater companies to showcase their talents. With performances six days per week and 50 weeks out of the year, 59E59 has multiple plays overlapping in March, all of which feature small casts and boundary- pushing plots with subjects ranging from love to race to religion to art itself.

The Public

For more than 60 years, The Public has maintained its status as one of the city’s greatest cultural institutions, and this year is no different. The original home to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” the East Village multistage theater boasts incredible star power in front of and behind its curtains, as well as in its more intimate cabaret-style venue, Joe’s Pub. Between the two spaces, there’s at least one performance nearly every night in March 2018, including the new play “Kings,” written by Sarah Burgess and directed by Thomas Kail (who also directed “Hamilton”), about a lobbyist in Washington; and “The Low Road,” from award-winning playwright Bruce Norris and director Michael Greif. 

Ars Nova

For March 2018 Ars Nova, a Hell’s Kitchen nonprofit theater space, presents the world premiere of “The Lucky Ones,” a musical by Sarah Gancher and indie-rock duo The Bengsons (Abigail Nessen Bengson and Shaun McClain Bengson). Directed by Anne Kauffman, the play explores the themes of family, faith and love to the soundtrack of indie folk-rock and stars a cast from both stage and screen. Tickets range from $25 to $65, depending on date and ordering method; the show is presented by Ars Nova but housed at the Connelly Theater in the East Village.

Clearly, there is plenty to see around town besides shows on the Great White Way. And even better news: Many of these shows may be available at discount prices at the four TKTS booths around the city.

Sonia Weiser
About the author