setting aside the wonders of broadway, the gilbert and sullivan fest tucks in at city center and the off-broadway scene is popping with a new play by sam shepard. here's a selective guide to some promising shows:
59e59 theaters: just completing its popular "brits off broadway" series jan. 3, this up-and-coming arts complex has three productions waiting in the wings: rough sketch (opens jan. 17), the man in room 306 (opens jan. 20) and happy now? (opens feb. 9). want cutting-edge theater imported from all over the world? interested in previewing shows that have gigs at the international edinburgh fringe festival? prefer fresh contemporary works to retooled classics? this theater is your best bet. 59 e. 59th st., 212-753-5959.
ages of the moon: playwright sam shepard, who mythologized the american west for us, returns to new york with a new dark comedy opening jan. 27. following its world premiere at the abbey theater in dublin, ireland, the original cast-stephen rea and sean mcginley-reprise their roles in the current production. the plot has shepard's fingerprints all over it: old friends reflect on 50 years of friendship and rivalry-and then all hell breaks loose. armageddon or not, this drama is likely to get your blood racing. atlantic theater company, 336 w. 20th st., 212-279-4200.
gilbert and sullivan fest at city center: the new york gilbert and sullivan players return to city center through jan. 17 with four old chestnuts: h.m.s. pinafore, pirates of penzance, the mikado and ruddigore. the company brings contemporary energy and traditional respect to gilbert and sullivan's works. west 55th street between sixth and seventh avenues, 212-581-1212.
lie of the mind: another shepard play? yes, shepard diehards won't want to miss this revival, first staged in 1985. this drama, opening feb. 18, is set in the gritty american west, and alternates the stories of two dysfunctional families whose homes are ripped apart by spousal abuse. eerily, both families meet up in a remote cabin. ethan hawke directs; laurie metcalf, marin ireland and josh hamilton are in the cast. theater row, 410 w. 42nd st., 212-279-4200.
café carlyle: tony award-winner elaine stritch opened the 2010 season with her new solo show, at home at the carlyle: elaine stritch singin' sondheim-one song at a time. recently dubbed by a british writer as "broadway's last first lady," she is sure to please on an intimate stage with some musical gems from sondheim's canon. remember her tour-de-force performance of elaine stritch at liberty on broadway in 2002? she can take the most ordinary yarn or song, and spin it into theatrical gold. 35 e. 76th st., 212-744-1600.
feinstein's regency: michael feinstein still makes regular appearances at his namesake club. but when keeping a low profile, he invites the crème de la crème to perform at his supper club. tyne daly, betty buckley, chubby checker (making his debut!) and jane krakowski are all in the line-up for 2010. the american song book is the bible at feinstein's, so expect gershwin, rodgers and hart, cole porter and plenty of showbiz melodies. you always leave humming a classic. 540 park ave., 212-339-4095.
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