Because of the huge financial pressures on Broadway producers, they usually (but not always) stick with tried-and-true formulas, revivals, or shows with a clear marketing hook. For anything slightly edgy or intellectual, you often need to go to the smaller Off-Broadway theaters. These theaters also tend to charge less for tickets.
Although I can’t guarantee that you’ll always see a great show, the following Off-Broadway theater companies consistently produce exciting, award-winning works:
* New York Theatre Workshop (79 E. 4th St., between Second Ave. and the Bowery; www.nytw.org; [tel] 212/460-5475; subway: 6 to Astor Place). This is an intellectually heady and sometimes avant-garde company. Biggest hits include: Once (Tony Award), Rent (Pulitzer Prize), Quills, and Mad Forest.
* Playwrights Horizons (416 W. 42nd St., between Seventh and Eighth aves.; www.playwrightshorizons.org; [tel] 212/564-1235; subway: 1, 2, 3, N, R, S to Times Square or A, E, C to 42nd St.). Dedicated to nurturing the art of the writer (lyricists and librettists as well as playwrights), Playwrights has always had a great eye for talent, producing the works of Stephen Sondheim, Christopher Durang, A. R. Gurney, and Wendy Wasserstein. Biggest hits include: Clybourne Park (Tony Award), Driving Miss Daisy (Pulitzer Prize), Sunday in the Park with George (Pulitzer Prize).
* The Public Theater (425 Lafayette St., off Astor Place; www.publictheater.org; [tel] 212/564-1235; subway: 6 to Astor Place). A strong emphasis on American playwrights, especially Asian-, Latin-, and African-American writers, has kept this theater relevant and popular since 1967. In all, Public Theater productions have been awarded 40 Tonys (for shows that moved to Broadway) and 138 Off-Broadway or “Obie” awards. Biggest hits include: Hamilton (Pulitzer Prize), A Chorus Line (Pulitzer Prize), Hair (Tony Award), and Fun Home (Tony Award).
* The Vineyard Theatre (108 E. 15th St., off Union Square; www.vineyardtheatre.org; [tel] 212/353-0303; subway: 4, 5, 6, N, R to Union Square). The Vineyard may well be the biggest risk-taker of the major Off-Broadway theaters, presenting out-and-out performance art alongside less far-out plays and musicals. When they’re good, they’re great; and when their shows miss the mark, they’re still usually intellectually intriguing. Biggest hits include: Avenue Q (Tony Award), Three Tall Women (Pulitzer Prize), and How I Learned to Drive (Pulitzer Prize).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.