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Billy McEntee

Billy McEntee is a freelance writer with bylines in The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Vanity Fair, and others. He is the Theater Editor at the Brooklyn Rail and recently released his first short film, “Lindsay Lindsey Lyndsey.”

All Roads (And Genres) Lead To TIGUE

Instrumental music, when expertly crafted, often shimmers with something beneath its surface, a spring-loaded energy set for flight. Without words to act as release, the body turns to other solutions—dance, most notably, but in the case of Brooklyn-based band TIGUE, perhaps something more surreal.

Gathering Round The Hearth: New Theater, Strong Women, and Fiery Plays

The Hearth, Greer’s new theater company that she co-founded with Emma Miller is creating a fire for female artists to gather around. Or, more literally, “The Hearth tells the stories of women,” as the company’s website states.

Sam Hunter Brings Two New Plays—and a Meal—to Rattlestick

Sam Hunter’s plays are tightly constructed, hauntingly beautiful, and hold a striking alchemy of contradictions: his works are small, despite the vast lands on which they’re set, and they’re also poignant, despite—or perhaps because of—their lack of sentimentality.

Jeremy O. Harris Continues His Firecracker Season with “Daddy”

With two searing world premieres in one season, Jeremy O. Harris isn’t making a splash; he’s summoning a tidal wave.

In Their Changing Village, Two Artists Reflect on a Lost Hospital

Prior to rehearsing for Novenas for a Lost Hospital, cast member Ken Barnett saw his relationship to the titular medical center, St. Vincent’s, as twofold.

Trickling Up: The Theater Community Uplifts its Own

Theaters have been shuttered for a record number of days: with Broadway venues currently closed through at least June 7—and many Off-Broadway theaters following suit—we are quickly approaching our 100th day without communing together. It has had a devastating effect on the industry, and none have felt this seismic shift more acutely than its artists.

A Song for the Strivers in Evanston Salt Costs Climbing

Evanston Salt Costs Climbing, directed by Danya Taymor and produced by The New Group, is a song for the striving: a love letter to those who feel too much, who can’t help but give and give of themselves even if it comes at their own expense. Such characters exist throughout Arbery’s other plays, including the wounded Emily in Heroes of the Fourth Turning and saintly Isabel in Plano.

A Bonkers Workplace Comedy About Life and Grief in Events

If you’ve dreaded going back into the office, Events confirms the return may be worse than you imagined. Much, much worse.

Despite its Bumpy History, Merrily We Roll Along Glides Back to New York

The first time I saw Merrily was at Fair Lawn High School in New Jersey in 2008; Stephen Sondheim apparently attended a performance and spoke to the cast. I remember being amazed by the score, confused by the story, but moved by the ending—in that amateur production’s final gesture, as the chorus refrains “me and you” during “Our Time,” antihero Franklin Shepard’s piano comes back on stage and he, alone, faces it. Maria Friedman’s production, now sold out at New York Theatre Workshop, concludes with a similar visual, and an idea clicked: music is the you to Franklin’s me, the thing he cares most about and what he has to lose when the people who make him sing fade away, dimming like distant stars.

Embracing Mist: The Questions, Not Answers, Grey House Proposes

“Grey” is an apt qualifier for the house in Levi Holloway’s play. For one, like Holloway’s ghost story, the color is eerie; the hue is associated with fog, drear, and mystery. But grey also suggests a vague middle ground, neither black nor white. En route to her father’s home, Max (Tatiana Maslany) and her husband Henry (Paul Sparks) are driving between two places—wherever they came from and wherever they are heading, locations that are never fully defined. The house they stumble into is an in-between.

At Paper Mill, Rent Honors a Lost Generation and City

Since Rent’s 1996 Broadway debut, Michael Greif’s gritty-polished production has been mimicked in high schools, community theaters, and regional houses across the country. At Paper Mill Playhouse, Zi Alikhan’s rendition immediately distinguishes itself. Yes, there are still baggy sweaters and colorful folding chairs, but as a production this Rent is as much elegy as it is musical.

Check into Grief Hotel: Wading through Woe with Liza Birkenmeier’s Latest

Grief Hotel, commissioned by Clubbed Thumb, is a black comedy. It’s also a container for all the ways in which no one knows how to carry sorrow. And it’s—for the multiple relationships depicted within—a liminality, that sneaky moment when no one’s sure whether the tide is coming in or going out.

Joseph Medeiros’s Odyssey of the Self

Medeiros will usher you, in silence, down dark, winding stairs, hovering the light near your feet as you descend. The shifting step directions disorient; the journey brings to mind exiting a new subway station, from which, after emerging, north feels like south. Except, instead of climbing up out of the ground, you’re spelunking in Queens.

The Embrace at Faurschou

The Embrace, Miles Greenberg’s live installation, has a gentle conceit: two performers who do not know one another silently embrace in a glass box for six hours.

9 Kinds of Silence Targets the Omnipresent Hum of Nationalism

A PlayCo commission now running at 122CC, 9 Kinds of Silence by Indian theatermaker Abhishek Majumdar posits that nationalism may be just as haunting as battlefield scars post-conscription.

The Universe Doesn't Cast Leading Roles: Zhu Yi's You Never Touched the Dirt

In her surreal new comedy You Never Touched the Dirt, the wealthy Lis have lived detached from the land that nurtures them while also paying exorbitant prices to enjoy its unspoiled splendor in a private lakeside community somewhere outside Shanghai. Zhu Yi’s play is a bonkers, tilted, and utterly delightful eclogue; naturally, experimental mainstay Ken Rus Schmoll directs this New York premiere that bows at Clubbed Thumb’s Summerworks starting June 3.

Let Constraints Set You Free

The play feels simultaneously apiece with our politically confused world and also contained totally unto itself. “I'm interested in writing plays that feel like microcosms of the ‘larger world,’” Einspanier said. “At the time of writing, I was thinking a lot about the struggle towards kindness. We talk a lot about conflict (drama!) in the theater—I wanted to explore care, and how we might embody it onstage.”

In Pursuit of the Urgently Inexplicable

Arbery—tender, clement, and an exposed nerve who shines with a quiet charisma—does not intend to be the center of attention, even as his career is exploding, and so it seems fair that he wouldn't force a principal role on anyone else, even a fictional character.

National Queer Theater: Building Community, Shining a Light, and Raising Hell

New York’s theater scene is not an ecosystem short on gay plays. However when it comes to showcasing all the colors of the LGBTQ+ rainbow, these plays predominantly come in one shade: white and gay. To fill in the gaps and build bridges to underrepresented communities, Adam Odsess-Rubin founded the National Queer Theater.

In Conversation

Looking Back, and Forward, as Ma-Yi Celebrates 30 Years of Innovative Work

The Obie and Lucille Lortel award-winning theater company started out in 1989 producing solely the work of Filipino American writers; while that has evolved, so has the theater’s definition of what a “Ma-Yi play” is. And that’s a strength: in a company whose ethos and blessings are fortified by its creators, each new playwright brings with them—to Ma-Yi’s numerous productions and artistic programs—their own world and experiences to expand and delight the company’s evolving landscape of thought-provoking, envelope-pushing American plays.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

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