While Broadway’s production costs make art for art’s sake an iffy proposition, Off Broadway has always been the place to go if you want to tickle your brain and feed your soul. Risky theater usually entails more misses than hits, but three attention-grabbing plays currently running have put Off Broadway in exceptionally fine form. Better still, ticket prices here top out at $20 less than they do uptown.
If that sounds appealing, don’t miss the expertly executed and critically hailed How I Learned to Drive (TC), Paula Vogel’s drama about a family infected by a pedophilic uncle. As the victim, Mary-Louise Parker (Fried Green Tomatoes) gives a quirky, soulful performance; as the villain, David Morse performs a nuanced juggling act, simultaneously sinister and pathetic.
As the deposed Vogue editor Diana Vreeland in Full Gallop (TC), Mary Louise Wilson puts on a smart, funny, and moving one-woman show of hysterics, zingy one-liners (”As Joan Crawford once said, ‘If you want the girl next door, go next door”’), and hard-earned wisdom.
Theater doesn’t get any better than Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde (TM), Moises Kaufman’s fascinating account (utilizing — verbatim — court transcripts, Wilde’s own writings, and scholarly accounts) of Wilde’s public downfall when charged with homosexual acts. The play ultimately transcends the subject matter, shedding light on the trials’ historical significance, and making Wilde a curious kind of Everyman, done in by pride, passion, and social convention.