Theater Streams See Stars Pop Up in Unexpected Places


One of theater’s great pleasures is watching actors bring characters to life. The era of online performing arts has added a remarkably democratic element by allowing high-caliber casts to pop up in everything from revisited classics to fresh-from-the-oven efforts by young playwrights. Most stars are available on short notice these days, after all, and now they can take on projects that time or financial constraints may have kept them away from. We look for whatever upside we can find, and the pleasure of fine acting in an unexpected setting has been a balm.

There is no letting up in the coming weeks, as you’ll see in the selection of streaming events below. But don’t forget to look for unknown actors, either — discovering new favorites is just as rewarding as checking in with old ones.

The New Group is bringing back some of its recent hits and their original casts in a series of benefit live readings. First out of the gate on Thursday (and available through Sunday) is Sharr White’s “The True,” in which Edie Falco reprises her juicy role as a 1970s Democratic Party operator in Albany. On July 30 (available through Aug. 2), Jesse Eisenberg heads his own “The Spoils,” playing a spectacularly obnoxious aspiring filmmaker. The livestreams start at 7 p.m. with tickets priced at $10 for the first 100, $25 after that.

In addition, on July 20-24 the company is presenting “Facing the Rising Tide,” a free festival of five plays about environmental racism and the climate crisis.

For its 10th annual festival of 10-minute plays, Red Bull Theater selected six new works among submissions from around the country. They will be staged and livestreamed for free, along with new commissions from Jeremy O. Harris and Theresa Rebeck, on July 20 at 7:30 p.m. Intriguingly, the year’s theme is “Private Lives,” inspired by the Noël Coward comedy of that title. Can’t wait to watch Frankie J. Alvarez, Kathleen Chalfant, Lilli Cooper, Edmund Donovan, William Jackson Harper and Charlayne Woodard work their magic.

No Zoom window could possibly contain the outsize personality of Marga Gomez, whose new work, “Spanking Machine,” should be a highlight of Dixon Place’s Hot Festival, an annual “celebration of queer culture.” The show is the latest installment in a long-running autobiographical project that includes “Latin Standards,” about her father. (Although primarily a solo artist, the biting writer and performer made quite an impression last fall portraying a gentle butch lesbian in the Liza Birkenmeier play “Dr. Ride’s American Beach House.”) Performances are July 16-25 and tickets are $10-$40.

Directed by the writer-illustrator Brian Selznick (“The Invention of Hugo Cabret”) and based on his book with Pam Conrad, “Doll Face Has a Party!” is a whimsical show about making the most of what’s in your house. The 12-minute Chicago Children’s Theater production is narrated by James Lecesne and features low-tech, inventive puppetry by Will Bishop and Grace Needlman.

In San Diego, the La Jolla Playhouse continues its Digital Without Walls series with Tom Salamon’s interactive treasure hunt “The Wizards of Oakwood Drive” (July 16-26; $25). Parents, make sure to check out the list of items you will need to have on hand to make the most of this online performance.

Older teens and young adults may get a kick out of a pair of rocking and rolling productions from London’s Southwark Playhouse (er, Stayhouse): a 100-minute “Twelfth Night” and the infernally catchy musical “Wasted,” about the romantic headbangers known as the Brontë siblings.

“Hello to you out there in Normal Land!” So went the 1981 song “Spasticus Autisticus,” which is included in the Ian Dury jukebox musical “Reasons to Be Cheerful.” Produced by the Graeae Company, which places “D/deaf and disabled actors centerstage,” the raucous show is a good reminder that theaters’ move to streaming has brought issues of accessibility for viewers, writers and performers to the fore. The production, filmed in 2017, streams through Aug. 3.

This summer, the Cape Cod Theater Project pivoted to live readings and rustled up a dynamic lineup that ends with a pair of promising new pieces. On Thursday and Saturday, Lileana Blain-Cruz directs the “Afro-Currentist” play “Bust,” in which Zora Howard (“Stew”) imagines that Black people suddenly start disappearing. On July 23 and 25, Kevin Artigue’s “I, My Ruination” sets up a confrontation between Elia Kazan and Arthur Miller in 1952; the impressive cast includes Nina Arianda, Paul Giamatti, Arian Moayed and Corey Stoll. All readings are at 7 p.m.; suggested donation starts at $25.

Ever heard of Teresa Deevy or Harley Granville-Barker? No? In the Mint Theater’s world, they are stars; then again, the New York company is dedicated to rediscovering forgotten playwrights. Since 2013, the Mint has been recording its productions for archival purposes, and it’s making three of them available for free through Sunday: Harold Chapin’s “The New Morality,” Hazel Ellis’s “Women Without Men” and George Kelly’s “The Fatal Weakness.” Let’s hope more will follow.

Conor McPherson’s Dylan musical “Girl From the North Country” shut down in March with the rest of Broadway, but fans of the Irish writer will get a quick fix when the Irish Repertory Theater presents a “performance onscreen” of one his most popular plays, the spooky tale “The Weir.” Note that while Ciarán O’Reilly’s new production is prerecorded, it will stream only at specific times on July 21-25, so make sure to check the company’s website. A $25 donation is suggested.

Patrick Page, who played the underworld overlord of “Hadestown,” is reliably fun to watch — and listen to, with that hot-fudge baritone of his. Now, he and Karen Ziemba (“Prince of Broadway”) attempt to bring a touch of Elizabethan class to the Strip in a reading of the Suzanne Bradbeer comedy “Shakespeare in Vegas.” A joint production with the Vegas Theater Company, this benefit for TheatreWorks Silicon Valley streams July 23-27.

What do Rosie O’Donnell, Joely Fisher, Mackenzie Phillips and Maureen McCormick have in common? They all played Betty Rizzo in the 1990s Broadway revival of “Grease.” On Saturday at 8 p.m., they reminisce about that experience in an episode of Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley’s online talk show “Stars in the House.” (Where art thou, Linda Blair and Lucy Lawless?)

In addition, Rudetsky’s Sunday concert series continues with Norm Lewis (Sunday), Megan Hilty (July 26) and Cheyenne Jackson (Aug. 2). Showtime is 8 p.m. with a repeat Mondays at 3 p.m.; tickets are $20-$25.

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