Expand Your Horizons: A Guide to New Jersey Theater

Show-Score | By Kate Farrington | Jul 31, 2017

Watch out, New York - New Jersey is home to some of the most daring and dynamic theater companies around, and they're all gearing up for a great fall season. Here's a guide to some of the best theater New Jersey has to offer.

By Jerry Dalia

New Yorkers like to think of their city as the red-hot center of the theater universe, but great art doesn’t stop at the Hudson. (Recently, for instance, one of Show-Score’s members detailed the wide range of quality theater that can be found in the Berkshires.)


With that in mind, we thought it only fair to share what’s going on with our neighbors to the west. New Jersey is home to some of the most influential and long-lived theaters on the East Coast—and most of them are less than two hours from Midtown.

From sumptuous revivals to daring new work, the Garden State is in full artistic bloom this summer. Here’s a rundown of a few of the top-notch New Jersey theater companies and their upcoming shows in August and September.


Two River Theater

Red Bank, NJ (Directions Here)


Two River offers a vibrant mix of classic and modern plays in its beautiful two-stage venue. Whether you prefer Moliere or August Wilson, Two River will have something for you—including several shows each season geared toward younger audiences, from their “Little Shakespeare” series to their annual production of “A Wind In the Willows Christmas”.

Upcoming: “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry

Sept. 9 to Oct. 8


Hansberry’s masterful tale of the Youngers, an African-American family in 1950s Chicago, and their struggle to find a place in the American Dream.


The Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey 

Madison, NJ (Directions Here)


Now in its 52nd season, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey presents a wide-ranging season of classics old and new, where Shakespeare can rub shoulders with Ionesco. Their venue on the Drew University campus includes an outdoor space for summer productions (typically running in June and July) and a wonderful, intimate main stage.


Upcoming: “What the Butler Saw” by Joe Orton

Sept. 6 to Oct. 1


Scandalous British playwright Joe Orton’s final play is a wickedly funny farce about psychiatrist, his half-naked secretary, and his wife. Be prepared for wackiness to ensue.


Paper Mill Playhouse

Millburn, NJ (Directions Here)


Paper Mill has been producing high-quality musicals for decades and was the 2016 recipient of the Regional Theater Tony Award. “Newsies!” had its start there, as well as current Broadway productions “Bandstand” and “A Bronx Tale”. A nice perk for the NYC traveler? The theater boasts its own restaurant—The Carriage House Bistro & Bar.

 

Upcoming: “The Honeymooners”, book by Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss, music by Peter Mills

Sept. 28 to Oct. 29


Based on the classic ‘50s TV show, this world-premiere musical pits best friends Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton against Madison Avenue tycoons.



McCarter Theatre Center 

Princeton, NJ (Directions Here)

 

McCarter’s expansive repertoire embraces both bold new work and imaginative re-interpretations of classic plays. The theater has longstanding artistic partnerships with such luminaries as Athold Fugard and Nilo Cruz. Many of their productions have gone on to have New York runs—Christopher Durang’s Tony Award-winning play “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” premiered there in 2012. In addition to their mainstage season, McCarter hosts touring shows, dance pieces, and music events year-round—it’s truly an epicenter for the performing arts.

Upcoming: “Simpatico” by Sam Shepard

Sept. 8 to be Oct. 8


“Simpatico” examines the lives of a group of young horserace gamblers and the fallout, years later, of their big jackpot. The show (co-produced with Chicago’s Red Orchid Theatre) will feature actor Michael Shannon, who Show-Score members may know from last year’s Broadway run of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”.


(Note: We're sad to note that the day we published this post, it was announced that the great Sam Shepard passed away. Our Director of Content and Community wrote this tribute to Shepard's work.)


George Street Playhouse

New Brunswick, NJ (Directions Here)


George Street is dedicated to developing new work that challenges its audience. Many of the plays they’ve nurtured in their 40-year history have gone on to appear on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and nationally (“Proof”, “The Spitfire Grill”, and “It Shoulda Been You” all got their start at George Street.) The company will be moving into a newly constructed performing arts space in downtown New Brunswick in 2019. In the meantime, they’re performing in an interim space—check the website for details.

Upcoming: “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, music by Jimmy Roberts

Oct. 10 to Nov. 12


Unfolding in a series of vignettes, “I Love You” explores love in all its forms. Since its initial Off-Broadway run, it has become a perennially popular show around the world. DiPietro and Roberts have created an updated version of the lyrics specifically for the George Street production to reflect the very different dating and marriage landscape in 2017.



New Jersey Repertory

Long Branch, NJ (Directions Here)


Devoted to developing and producing new work, New Jersey Repertory has been home to dozens of world premieres in its 20-year history. It offers a venue for emerging playwrights to develop their voice.


Upcoming: “F Theory” by Megan Loughran and Alex Trow

Aug. 17 to Sept. 24


This world premiere play follows the friendship of two women from their college years into adult life.



Looking for more New Jersey theater? The New Jersey Theatre Alliance keeps a great list of professional theaters throughout the state and is a great quick reference to find a theater near you.



What other Jersey shows are you looking forward to in the coming months? Let us know!


Which New Jersey Theaters Have You Visited?
Two River Theater
The Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey
Paper Mill Playhouse
McCarter Theatre Center
George Street Playhouse
New Jersey Repertory
Other

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