Every week, GBH Executive Arts Editor Jared Bowen shares the latest in arts and culture on Morning Edition. This week he took a New York City detour to hit some of Broadway’s latest plays, which includes two revivals that question American institutions and a new musical that reimagines “Romeo and Juliet” through the lens of pop music and girl power.
On stage through Feb. 5 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45 St., New York
“Take Me Out” is the 2002 play by Richard Greenberg, which looks looks at society through the prism of baseball. It ran last spring on Broadway and won a Tony Award for best revivial of a play. Because of its sucess and popularity, it has once again returned to the stage.
The main character, Darren Lemming, is a biracial baseball star who can do no wrong. He keeps his private life close to the vest, just how his fans want it. They don’t want their national pastime to be complicated. But then he comes out.
“We see the layers peel back once that happens,” Bowen recalls. “When something that is so treasured has a wrinkle in it, people are forced to confront what that means and why that is.”
The play explores how homosexuality ripples through the baseball team, and by extension, how it ripples through society.
“In this play, baseball is a powerful metaphor,” says Bowen.
On stage through Jan. 15, at the Hudson Theatre, 141 W. 44 St., New York
Arthur Miller wrote “Death of a Salesman” in 1949. In this post-war look at American life, Miller took on what he saw as the myth of the American dream by focusing on one fractured family: the Lomans.
The classic drama has been performed countless times. But this revival is the first time that the Lomans have been represented by a Black family on Broadway. Wendell Pierce (known for “The Wire” and “Jack Ryan”) plays Willy Loman, the salesman who is disregarded and disrespected on the job and at home. Defeated, Loman famously exclaims “Attention must be paid!”
“This is just riveting,” says Bowen. “It’s a marvelous production.”
Like all great plays, this tale continues to resonate with audiences today.
“Of course, we know that so little often changes,” says Bowen, “and this is why artists show us our stories.”
On stage through May 28 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, 124 W. 43 St., New York
The new musical “& Juliet” is what happens when William Shakespeare meets Max Martin, the songwriter who is behind some of the biggest pop anthems and stars, such as Britney Spears, Celine Dion and Katy Perry.
“When Juliet turns to the audience and says, ‘Oops, I did it again,’ you know you’re in for a different night,” says Bowen.
But this isn’t any jukebox musical. It’s set in the 16th century, on the opening night of “Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway (performed by Betsy Wolfe), stops the show. She wants to take agency and Shakespeare’s quill. She decides that Juliet doesn’t need to kill herself, especially when you do the math: she’s known Romeo for only four days. Hathaway rewrites this story so that Juliet gets to go off on her way and have her journey.
“I think this is really what we need right now, which is just something fun,” says Bowen.