For avid theatergoers, any trip to New York means seeing at least one show.
But which do you pick: a new play or a revival?
And where do you go: Broadway or off-Broadway?
While new works can be risky, familiar favorites can feel safe – or worse, unexceptional without the right casting and staging.
The choices are never easy, since there are so many theater productions sparking curiosity or generating buzz – right now, especially, The Glass Menagerie and Buyer & Cellar.

For avid theatergoers, any trip to New York means seeing at least one or twoshows, if not more.
But which do you pick: a new play or a revival of a classic?
And where do you go: Broadway or off-Broadway?
While new works can be risky, familiar favorites can feel safe – or worse, unexceptional without the right casting and staging.
The choices are never easy, since there are so many theater productions sparking curiosity or generating buzz – right now, especially, The Glass Menagerie and Buyer & Cellar.

If you stay within the mid-town theater district roughly bordered between 41 st and 52 nd streets and between 7 th and 8 th avenues, you’re pretty much limited to Broadway musicals or star-driven revivals of classic plays.
If you really want to see a new play, you often have to venture farther afield – since off-Broadway means any 99-seat to 499-seat theater throughout Manhattan.
On a recent visit, I split the difference between something old and something new, seeing one of my favorite Tennessee Williams plays in a revival on Broadway and satisfying my curiosity about one of the season’s most acclaimed comedies off-Broadway.

Zachary Quinto, seated left, with Cherry Jones, standing, and Celia Keenan-Borger in the Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Richards Associates, Michael J. Lutch)

Imagine a treasured glass figurine that you haven’t examined closely in quite a while.
When you remove it from your dusty shelf or cluttered closet, you expect it to be as delicate, artful and achingly beautiful as you first saw it years ago.
You really don’t expect to see any new facets in such a familiar favorite.
But under the piercing golden hues of a newly installed spotlight, you do – and it forever changes how you will remember and see the figurine from now on.
That, in a metaphoric nutshell, sums up my thrilling experience seeing The Glass Menagerie again recently in an astonishing Broadway revival at New York’s Booth Theatre.
Tennessee Williams’ early 1944 work is widely revived in regional repertory, where I’ve enjoyed it several times. So I had pretty high expectations about the poignant family drama on a recent New York trip about the play, when I had the privilege of taking Vern Tejas, an old friend from my Houston-high-school years, to his first Broadway play.
Concidentally, Vern, one of the world’s most experienced and senior mountain climbers as a New-York-based guide for Alpine Ascents International, has his own long list of "firsts" – including completing the first solo winter ascent of Mount McKinley in 1988 and, at 57 in 2010, breaking the world-speed record in 134 days for completing the climbing (again!) of the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.
Well before the end of the astonishing first act of this exquisite American Repertory Theatre production of Williams’ four-character memory play, Vern and I were so touched and moved by the unfolding drama that we realized that we were sharing another kind of "peak experience."
If not quite the Mount Everest of American drama – where Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire ranks firmly alongside Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – The Glass Menagerie is revealed in this landmark revival to be close by within that high Himalayan grouping.

Under the perceptive and sensitive direction of John Tiffany (Once), a stellar four-actor cast improbably but delightfully finds new depths and many fresh nuances in one of the best-known works of 20 th century American theater.
Having been thrilled on Broadway several times before by two-time Tony winner Cherry Jones (Doubt, The Heiress, A Moon for the Misbegotten), I had no doubt that her Amanda Wingfield would be formidable.
But Jones exceeds expectations in subtle ways as Amanda, the former Southern belle and desperate Depression-era single mother. Amanda is desperate to find some way to escape grinding poverty for herself and her two wounded children.
Both, in their own ways, have retreated from the world (and partially, temporarily escaped their controlling mother) into dreams: lame Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger), obsessed with her glass menagerie; and loner Tom (Zachary Quinto), Amanda’s estranged older son who works at a factory and leaves home nightly to watch movies.
Jones, one of the greatest living stage actresses, blends painful drama and anxious comedy as her headstrong Amanda does everything she can to push Laura and Tom towards what she imagines will be a brighter future.

Cherry Jones, left, and Zachary Quinto in a scene from the Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie at New York’s Booth Theatre. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Richards Associates, Michael J. Lutch)

Keenan-Bolger (who was so good in her Broadway debut as the gawky student Olive in The 25 th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) is luminous and innocent, even while revealing fractures underneath.
Keenan-Bolger glistens – and even begins to glow with the distant hope that she might begin to heal her terrible shyness and insecurities – in the second act during Laura’s brief moments of shy rapture with her Gentleman Caller (Brian J. Smith, gallant and kind and hinting at his own nostalgic woundedness about his fading high-school glory days).
The surprise, though, is that neither Jones nor Keenan-Bolger deliver the central performance in this revival.

Not until this production did I realize that Tom, a poetic writer dubbed "Shakespeare" by his work buddy, The Gentleman Caller, and the fictionalized alter ego of Williams) is truly the central character of Williams' play.
That revelation comes partly as a consequence of Tiffany’s direction, which underlines the shocking pull of Tom’s guilty and still-wounding memories, combined with Quinto’s pivotal performance in a remarkable Broadway debut.
Now as a Star Trek fan, I’d been aware of Quinto for a few years as the new Spock in the two rebooted Star Trek films. He was OK, but he wasn’t Leonard Nimoy – but then the new Star Trek isn’t the same (or really in the same upbeat spirit) as the old Star Trek.
Frankly, I had no idea that Quinto could act – I mean, really act. Mea culpa.
With just a frustrated shrug or exasperated glance in reaction to his mother, Quinto finds emotional complexities in Tom that I never knew were there but which in retrospect seem inevitable and necessary to any future Tom.
Here is a Tom intimately familiar to any guy who’s ever been a teenager.
Recoiling in embarrassment and mingled love and frustration from his mother when she’s at her controlling, unknowing worst, Quinto’s Tom makes us feel the complexities and shifting emotions of a young man as eager to escape his youth and family as a rat whose legs are caught and mangled in a razor-sharp trap.
And Quinto’s Tom is a rat desperate enough to chew off his own legs to ensure an independent future.
Quinto also brings out what dark humor there might be within such agonizing tragedy, His performance – sure to be recognized next spring at the Tony awards, along with Jones and Tiffany – brings to searing life a Tom forever warped and scarred by the mother and sister that he must abandon to survive.

The Glass Menagerie continues in an open run at 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 5, 2014 at New York’s Booth Theatre, 222 W. 45 th St.
For tickets, call Tele-charge at 212-236-6200 or 800-432-7250 or visit

Michael Urie in the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater’s off-Broadway production of Buyer & Cellar Credit: Sandra Coudert

If you’re a Barbra Streisand fan, Buyer & Cellar is a must-see comedy.
If you’re not, though, consider this one-act solo comedy by Jonathan Tolin (Broadway’s The Twilight of the Golds) very much an optional off-Broadway pleasure for those intrigued by the ways that celebrity culture has seduced and infiltrated every nook and cranny, attic and basement of modern American life.
Clever and cute as well as wry and whimsical, Buyer & Cellar takes off from a bit of gossipy fact (My Passion for Design, Streisand’s 2010 coffee-table book about her Art-Deco home and basement "shops" for her vast collection of clothes, dolls and memorabilia) into a wild but surprisingly plausible flight of hilariously sustained fantasy.
Actor Michael Urie won major awards this past season for his chameleonic performance.
As chatty and intimate as a friend dishing the dirt on an encounter with a superstar, Urieplays multiple roles but chiefly sketches out Alex More, an unemployed aspiring gay actor who after a dismal job at Disneyland is hired mysteriously to man the lavish basement shopping "mall" of a guess-who Hollywood luminary.
Once he starts working, Alex discovers that he’s really play-working for Streisand on her random and rare visits to her own basement alley of miniature shops, where she pretends to be a shopper and he pretends to be a seller of her own treasure-trove of costumes, collectibles and other carefully staged mementos.
As the play spins into high gear, their relationship extends into more play-acting, as the lonely woman calls herself Sadie, bargains fiercely to buy a coveted item and returns with a suspiciously perfect "coupon" to get precisely the bucks off she wanted.
Ultimately, after the relationship deepens into a pseudo-equality as the two rehearse scenes from Gypsy as the diva toys with the idea of taking on Mama Rose, the lowly actor inevitably falls back to earth with a thud, like Dorothy after the tornado.
But what a tornado of fun, fancy and innuendo!

Michael Urie in Buyer & Cellar. Credit: Sandra Coudert
I’m not sure whether such a coy performance and frivolous entertainment would merit a visit off-Broadway by a typical central Ohioan on a rare and brief visit to New York. Such theatergoers might prefer to stick closer to Broadway and see a more mainstream play or musical.
But if you’re a sophisticated and knowledgeable theatergoer who’s already seen the major long-running hits and is just interested in smiling and laughing along with an off-beat play off the beaten track, this quirky and surprisingly sweet comedy could fit the bill.
Whether you love or hate Streisand, Tolin and Urie play fair with her public image. (As Urie jokes early on before stepping into his roles, they must make crystal clear where fact ends and their fantasy begins or risk coming into closer contact than desired with her famously litigious temperament).
And by the magnanimous ending of this tall Hollywood tale, Tolin and Urie give the Art Deco- and fashion-obsessed diva the benefit of most remaining doubts.
Before that, though, fasten your seatbelts for a dishy night that’s like, well, buttah.

Buyer & Cellar continues in an open run at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Jan. 5 at the Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow St. off 7 th Ave. South (a few blocks south of the Christopher Street subway stop for the 1 train). For tickets, call 212-868-4444 or visit
Urie will reprise his role in Chicago, starting April 29, and then in Los Angeles July 9 to Aug. 17.