A remarkable range of theater has worked its way into our homes over the past three months, and it has certainly been soothing to enjoy some razzmatazz — nothing distracts from reality like a powerhouse belt.
But theater can also challenge and probe. And with American venues that push artistic envelopes — like the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Wexner Center for the Arts, and REDCAT — closing their doors, our pipeline to the weird, the exacting or the plain unclassifiable has moved online.
We can even enjoy greater access to international theatrical wonders — though it’s regrettable that superb French companies like the Comédie-Française and Ariane Mnouchkine’s Théâtre du Soleil don’t offer English subtitles, thus missing out on expanding their audience.
Here is a selection of border- and convention-busting fare for some head-scratching, adventurous viewing.
Catch up with Thomas Ostermeier
The brilliant German director Thomas Ostermeier may be a regular visitor to our shores — those who saw his “Richard III” at BAM are still reeling — but he’s also very prolific and Americans have missed out on a lot of his output. Luckily, many of his productions have been popping up in the free online offerings of Berlin’s Schaubühne Theater, which Ostermeier runs. Not all have had English subtitles, but his staging of Arthur Schnitzler’s medical drama “Professor Bernhardi,” does. Set up an alarm to catch the play — which tackles anti-Semitism in 1900 Vienna — on Saturday June 6, the only day it’s available.
Explore the underground
The audacious performance lab known as the Brick is building up quite the online catalog, which is perfect for the many who have not had the opportunity to visit the tiny Williamsburg venue. Start with the wonderfully odd, wonderfully creepy “Sleeping Car Porters,” an inventive take on genre tropes in which Billy the Kid and the Zodiac Killer somehow run into each other. The live capture is surprisingly good, too. Dropping June 11 is an upload of “Destructo Snack, USA,” written and performed by Sarah Graalman and the Brick’s artistic director, Theresa Buchheister. “There will be sweat, there may be tears, there is often blood,” a blurb promised when the show premiered in 2011. Sold.
‘Stories from Europe: Crisis and Reflection’
This collaborative project, premiering online June 12, involves nine of Europe’s top theaters, all members of the Mitos21 network — created in 2008 to facilitate creative cooperation across borders. For “Stories from Europe,” which was initiated by Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theater, each company commissioned a playwright to script a short video drawing from interviews with front-line workers. With contributions from such prestigious institutions as the Berliner Ensemble, Vienna’s Burgtheater, Budapest’s Katona Jozsef Theater, London’s National Theater (Brexit be damned!) and Turin’s Teatro Stabile, the project should give an interesting glimpse of a Europe facing the same invisible enemy.
‘End Meeting for All’
Dear God, not another Zoom meeting! If you have the mental bandwidth for just one more, make it this creation from Forced Entertainment. The British company has long explored the nature of theater itself, often through duration and repetition, so it makes perfect sense that its latest project would put a dryly funny twist on the representational awkwardness — and occasional drudgery — of online gatherings. Over three surprisingly entertaining installments running about 25 minutes each, “End Meeting for All” explores the mayhem that so often wrecks the seemingly neat order of small virtual boxes. The works are free on YouTube until June 30.
All day and all of the night
Ars Nova is a tiny-but-mighty company that has nurtured shows as diverse as “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” “Underground Railroad Game” and “Small Mouth Sounds” in a tiny space on the westernmost reaches of W. 54th Street. Starting June 12 at 6 p.m. and going for 24 straight hours, you can stream the “Ars Nova Forever Telethon,” a fund-raising variety show that will feature over 100 artists. Among the events, look for a reunion with the “Natasha” cast and creative team; a new edition of the wildly popular “Showgasm” hosted by John Early; Freestyle Love Supreme piloting something called “Thon-tha-thon-thon-thon” (wild guess: it will involve improv); and “So You Think You Can KPop,” hosted by Jason Tam and including Ashley Park (both alums from the Ars Nova-produced “KPOP” musical).
Discover Pippo Delbono
The Italian director Pippo Delbono’s fertile career goes back to the early 1980s, and he is a regular on Europe’s most prestigious stages. Yet he is so unknown in the English-speaking world that he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page in that language. Now, the Emilia Romagna Teatro Fondazione is offering a crash course in the Delbono oeuvre — heady, often provocative nonnarrative collages of movement (he worked with Pina Bausch), text, music and songs, and visually arresting stagings — by streaming four of his shows for free. Start with “Vangelo” (about religion in a time of devastation and unrest) which is available only until June 15, but make sure you don’t miss “Orchidee” (through June 25), in which Delbono processes his mother’s death. Click on the CC button for English subtitles.
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