If there’s one word to describe the theater you can consume in the summer, it’s variety. Unlike the fall season (usually serious and heady) and spring (bursting with Tony-hopeful musicals), summer is a chance to dress down, relax, have a drink, and spend time outdoors. Here’s where to do it.
Shakespeare in the Park: Much Ado About Nothing and Coriolanus
Take your pick: love or war? Okay, we’re being a bit reductive, but this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park does offer a stark contrast. One of the Bard’s breeziest romantic comedies (Much Ado About Nothing, through June 23) or his political tragedy about a Roman soldier who refused to bend to the people’s will (Coriolanus, July 16 through August 11). Either way, you’re bound to swoon at great poetry under the stars.
Delacorte Theater, Central Park West and 81st Street, Upper West Side
Through Sunday, August 11
Underground Railroad Game
Two middle-school teachers—she’s black, he’s white, they’re having an affair—try to educate their tender young charges about slavery in America. The result is one of the most acclaimed un-p.c. comedies in recent years, with lots of superawkward nudity and wildly offensive role-playing. If you missed its NYC premiere, now’s your chance.
Ars Nova at Greenwich House
27 Barrow Street (at Seventh Avenue), West Village
Thursday, May 30–Saturday, June 15
Starting at $45
Here’s another outstanding show about race and the “white gaze,” and another encore run for anyone who missed it earlier. Playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury won a 2019 Pulitzer Prize for this subversive and unpredictable shocker, which starts a bit like an African-American sitcom and morphs into something much, much weirder.
Polonsky Shakespeare Center
262 Ashland Place, Fort Greene
Sunday, June 2–Sunday, July 28
Starting at $90
Regina Spektor: Live on Broadway
Spektor sings of carbon monoxide, cleavage in summer, paintings trapped in museums, sailors, Samson, fidelity, and pianos as firewood. Since 2003, she’s been one of indie pop’s most original singer-songwriters, and she’s finally coming to Broadway. Her magical, funny, sad, and wise songs will break your little heart.
205 West 46th Street (between Seventh and Eighth Avenues), Midtown West
Thursday, June 20–Wednesday, June 26
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, New York City Opera commissioned and presents this 80-minute chamber opera set on that fateful night and the day after. The libretto is by the prolific Mark Campbell (Silent Night), and his collaborator is an interesting choice: young English composer Iain Bell.
Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center
10 Columbus Circle, 5th Floor, Midtown West
Friday, June 21–Friday, June 28
Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow
Take Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, give it to acidly irreverent playwright Halley Feiffer, and you get this saucy millennial update of the Russian classic. Are their love lives, like, lame? Yes. Is their family basically dysfunctional AF? Duh. Do they still want to go to Moscow? OMG totes!
The Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space
511 West 52nd Street (between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues), Hell’s Kitchen
Wednesday, June 26–Saturday, August 3
Moulin Rouge! The Musical
It was just a matter of time before someone adapted Baz Luhrmann’s super-splashy 2001 movie musical for the stage. Well, here it is, petticoats whirling, mustaches waxed, all the manic and stylish energy of Belle Epoque decadence via MTV. Alex Timbers (Beetlejuice) directs this retro jukebox spectacle.
Al Hirschfeld Theatre
302 West 45th Street (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues), Midtown West
Previews start Friday, June 28; opens Thursday, July 25
Last year, Hannah Gadsby gained a global fan base and courted controversy with her frankly activist LGBTQ stand-up act, Nanette. Now the gender-nonconforming Tasmanian comic is back with a show named after her dog. She also talks about the little-known “Pouch of Douglas”—a vacant space in female genitalia “discovered” and self-named by Scottish physician James Douglas. So yeah: Gadsby might just be discussing men and their annoying ways.
Daryl Roth Theatre
101 East 15th Street (between Union Square East and Irving Place), East Village
Tuesday, July 23–Saturday, August 24
Starting at $63.50
Sea Wall / A Life
After a critically acclaimed, sold-out run at the Public Theater in late winter, this double bill of monologues performed by Tom Sturridge and Jake Gyllenhaal gets a limited turn at the handsome Hudson Theatre. Each solo piece focuses on a man who has lost a family member and is still processing the grief. As written by British playwrights Simon Stephens and Nick Payne, it’s a cathartic night of storytelling.
141 West 44th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues), Midtown West
Friday, July 26–Sunday, September 29
For visual splendor and kinetic excitement, it will be hard to beat this dance-theater spectacle coming to the Mostly Mozart Festival. It’s 202 B.C. in China, and the Chu and Han armies are about to engage in a historic battle that will change the destiny of the nation. Yang Liping’s breathtaking choreography blends martial arts, folk dance, and hip hop with live music and luscious visuals by Tim Yip (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).
David H. Koch Theater
20 Lincoln Center Plaza, Upper West Side
Thursday, August 8–Saturday, August 10