The activity on Buffalo’s theater scene, already close to manic on any given weekend, seems to be approaching critical mass. Case in point: This week, seven shows are opening in Erie County alone.
That’s in addition to six shows already off and running: O’Connell and Company’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”; MusicalFare Theatre’s “‘Swonderful: The New Gershwin Musical”; Road Less Traveled productions’ “The Clean House”; Alleyway Theatre’s “Buffalo Quickies”; the Post-Industrial Theatre’s “Horace” in the Manny Fried Playhouse; and Buffalo Laboratory Theatre’s “Almost, Maine.”
All the options can seem daunting, no doubt. So here’s a closer look at this week’s openings to help you make your choice. The pickings have rarely been better:
“American Buffalo,” today through May 19 in the Irish Classical Theatre Company’s Andrews Theatre, 625 Main St. $34 to $42. 852-4282 or www.irishclassical.com
David Mamet’s 1977 hit, about a trio of amateur robbers and their ill-conceived burglary scheme, struck Irish Classical Theatre co-founder Vincent O’Neill as an instant American classic. “To me, David Mamet is America’s Harold Pinter,” O’Neill said. “He’s a master of language, he’s a master of rhythm and he’s a master of [what] Pinter used to call it the weasel under the coffee table: On the surface, everybody’s sitting down for afternoon tea, but there’s a weasel under the coffee table and we’re waiting for it to bite somebody on the ankle.” In “American Buffalo,” directed by Chris Cavanagh, people get bit.
“August: Osage County,” Friday through May 19 in the Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Ave. $35 to $39. 829-7668 or www.kavinokytheatre.com
Tracy Letts’ 2007 masterpiece, a dark and vicious (but often riotously funny) look into the fractured home of an Oklahoma family on the edge, won the Tony Award for best play and the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2008. “It’s the play in the season that scares me the most, obviously, because people no longer want to sit in the theater for two-and-a-half or three hours,” said Kavinoky Artistic Director David Lamb. “I think that on stage we’re there to tell a story and to entertain and if we can do that at a pace and speed that is right, it doesn’t matter about the time.”
“Moonlight and Magnolias,” Friday through May 18 in American Repertory Theater of Western New York’s space in the Church of the Ascension, 1 Linwood Ave. $12 to $15. 634-1102 or www.artofwny.org
American Repertory Theater founder Matthew LaChiusa describes this comedy by Ron Hutchison as “a zany, crazy, Neil Simon-esque kind of piece.” It’s set in a single room, where a writer, producer and director have confined themselves while they work on a very important script: the template for “Gone With the Wind.” The show, LaChiusa said, fits ART’s long-standing goal to explore important pieces of Americana. “I look at parts of American history and how it relates to us either now or in the future,” he said. “So this piece really reflects a lot of the ART mission in the sense that it takes a little bit of American history and humanizes it.”
“Blood on a Cat’s Neck,” today through May 19 in Torn Space Theater’s home in the Adam Mickiewicz Dramatic Circle and Library, 612 Fillmore Ave. $15 to $25. 812-5733 or www.tornspacetheater.com
German screenwriter, actor and director Rainer Werner Fassbinder has been an important influence on Torn Space Theater co-founder Dan Shanahan.
This production of Fassbinder’s 1971 play will mark the third time Shanahan has produced the work of his artistic inspiration, following “Garbage, the City and Death” and “The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant.” It stars the unclassifiable heroine Phoebe Zeitgeist, a visitor from the moon who is alternately perplexed and enraged by the strange behavior of the desperate Earthlings she discovers.
“On the Waterfront,” Friday through May 25 in the New Phoenix Theatre, 95 Johnson Park. $15 to $25. 853-1334 or www.newphoenixtheatre.org
The masterwork of screenwriter Budd Schulberg, who died in 2009, this play about the fraught lives of New York City longshoremen and human aspiration has yet to shed its relevance. A joint project of the Subversive Theatre Collective and New Phoenix Theatre, it stars a huge cast that includes Matthew Nerber, Richard Lambert, Andrea Andolina and Gary Darling under the direction of Subversive Theater founder Kurt Schneiderman.
From out of town:
“Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody,” Monday and Tuesday in the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts, North Campus, Amherst. $38 to $42. 645-2787 or www.ubcfa.org
This tongue-in-cheek show (sold out on Tuesday, with tickets still available for Monday) is part of a recent spate of theatrical offerings based on E.L. James’ mega-popular and mildly naughty book “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The next, “50 Shades! The Musical” comes to the 710 Main Theatre in June.
“The Wonderful Wizard of Song,” Friday and Saturday in the 710 Main Theatre, 710 Main St. $40. 847-0850 or www.sheas.org/710Main
Two Buffalonians from different eras come together in this touring jukebox musical: Harold Arlen, who wrote some of the most memorable tunes of the 20th century, and modern-day singer-songwriter Marcus Goldhaber. “By the end of it, I think you really get to know who Harold was,” Goldhaber said in a January interview with The News. “Buffalo is a highlight, of course.”