best may theater
12 best Houston plays and performances showcase fan favorites, world premieres, and dazzling dance
Houston theaters wind down and end their 2021-2022 seasons this month with quite the dramatic bang.
With half our must-see list spotlighting world premiere comedy, drama and dance, Houston will also be the first to see some extraordinary new voices and stories. And for those looking for proven works, we’ve got award-winners and fan favorites on our list as well.
From moonshots to mothers’ stories, dueling Elizabethan playwrights to pretty dancing things to those boys from Jersey, get ready for “Oh, What a Night” on Houston stages in May.
Hurricane Diana at Rec Room (now through May 28)
Climate change meets the Greek god of wine, theater, and nature in this comedy by Madeleine George, an Obie-winning writer on the hit Hulu show Only Murders in the Building.
Here, Dionysus becomes goddess Diane, who walks the Earth as a lesbian permaculture gardener on secret mission is to save the planet from the ravages of climate change. Loosely based on Euripides’ The Bacchae, Diane plays goddess in the lives of four real housewives of New Jersey. Hurricane Diane uses comic absurdism to explore our complex reactions to global warming and capacity for change.
Apollo 8 at A.D. Players (now through June 5)
With this world premiere commission, the A.D. Players tells the out-of-this-world story NASA’s first mission to orbit the moon. In the midst of the turbulent ’60s with unrest at home and war and tension abroad, NASA is tasked with the mission to beat the Russians to the moon.
Along with true stories of the real Americans who planned and flew the mission, Apollo 8 also tells the fictional stories of people moved and inspired by our first journey to the moon, all culminating in a triumphant and divine glimpse of who we are and who were made to be.
Born With Teeth at Alley Theatre (now through June 5)
One of four Alley world premieres this season, Liz Duffy Adams’s historical what-if drama puts volatile geniuses William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe into a room for a dangerous theatrical collaboration.
Artistic rivalry turns political, as poetic and sexual tensions flare. In a time of palace intrigue, when the queen reigns supreme, the state is the church and one wrong move or word can mean execution can either man survive such a deadly creative partnership?
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter at Main Street Theater (May 8-June 5)
In this English language premiere, playwright Caridad Svich brings the autobiographical novel by Nobel Prize-winning Latin-American writer Mario Vargas-Llosa to life on the Main Street stage.
This intentionally soapy, romantic comedy follows the lives and loves at a 1950s Peruvian radio station as young writer Mario falls in love with his uncle’s sister-in-law, the much older, recently divorced, Julia.
Svich describes the coming-of-age story about “the performance of everyday life, the wonderfully disordered nature of love, and an homage to the golden age of radio and the spirit of classic screwball comedies.”
Jersey Boys present by Theatre Under the Stars (May 10-22)
The boys are back in town — those Jersey boys that is — as TUTS invites the touring Broadway favorite for a stay.
Houston musical lovers are always ready to relive the dramatic behind-the-music story of the early days and rise of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons in a show that also features all their hits including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Oh What A Night,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Working My Way Back To You.”
Between Riverside and Crazy from 4th Wall Theatre (May 12-June 4)
Houston theater companies, including 4th Wall, have given us some excellent productions of Pulitzer Prize-wining playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis work. This particular production with some of our favorite local actors opened in March of 2020, only to close after a few performances.
We were crazy with anticipation for 4th Wall to bring it back. This look inside one retired NYC cop’s rent-controlled apartment on Riverside Drive in New York reveals a whole world of crazy ties, battles, and relationships between family, friends and enemies.
The Mother Project: A Collaboration to Honor Black Mothers and their Children from Mildred’s Umbrella (May 19-28)
In collaboration with Esurient Arts, this multidisciplinary theatrical production was created by a diverse group of six female artists from Mildred’s Umbrella and Esurient Arts.
Based on interviews from Black American mothers, midwives and doulas, Mildred’s founder Jennifer Decker says The Mother Project tries to give voice to “the joy and heartbreak of being a Black mother in an America that still does not treat all people equally.”
One of the project’s creators, Houston playwright Jelisa Robinson, describes, “I was brought on to the project later on and was drawn to the fact that it was seeking to honor the various and beautiful experiences of Black mothers. As a Black woman with a Black mother, it was part of honoring her in this process.”
Pretty Things from Houston Ballet (May 20-29)
While not technically theater, we’re ready for the world premiere, peacocky drama of Trey McIntyre’s all-male dancer Pretty Things, part of Houston Ballet’s mixed repertory showcase of Houston-born ballets.
Along with McIntyre’s David Bowie-inspired Pretty Things, Jorma Elo’s ONE|end|ONE reflects the choreographer’s quirky and unexpected movements to create an atmosphere of playfulness. Christoper Bruce’s Hush is a comic and moving celebration of life set to the music of Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin.
Bonnie & Clyde from Open Dance Project (May 27-June 4)
Few performing arts companies make theatrical dance as immersive as choreographer Annie Arnoult’s Open Dance Project.
For Arnoult’s latest immersive piece, staged at Rice’s Moody Center, the ODP dancers, designers and composers take audiences back to 1920s and ’30s Texas and the criminal love story of Bonnie and Clyde.
Expect the dance unexpected with ODP, as the company does their research when creating new work. Look forward to a new vision of this violent duet that delves into the circumstances that turned teens with nothing to lose into killers.
Clybourne Park from Dirt Dog Theatre (May 27-June 11)
Inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun, Bruce Norris’s Pulitzer, Tony and Oliver (an awards rarity)-winning play ponders questions of community and change.
Covering a 50-year span in one Chicago neighborhood, Act One takes place in 1959, as white community leaders attempt to stop the sale of a home to a Black family. Act Two is set in the same house in 2009, as the now predominantly Black neighborhood faces gentrification.
With the same cast playing different roles in both eras, the play examines what changes and what remains the same for human prejudice and neighborly relationships.
Song of Me at Stages (May 27-June 12)
The final show of Stages 2021-22 season brings us another world premiere from local artists.
Actor Mai Lê, who we’ve watched onstage on many Houston stages over the years and photographer, sound designer, and director Đạt Peter Tôn collaborated on the story of Vietnamese-Houstonian siblings. Philip and Luci. On the eve of Philip’s wedding the brother and sister cook, plan, and reminisce.
Cultures clash as the two siblings seek their own path and long to sing in their own voices. Together, the two unpack their past and pave a new way forward, in this story of family, culture, and identity that could only be set in Houston.
Innominate from Catastrophic Theatre (May 27-June 19)
Inspired by Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica and Iran’s Green Revolution, this experimental dance-theatre work by by multidisciplinary artist Afsaneh Aayani will combine puppetry, live original music, mixed media, and movement to take audiences on a surreal journey. Expect a journey through Aayani’s personal story as an immigrant from war-torn Iran.
Caught between a perpetual limbo on her twisted path to American citizenship and unable to return to Iran, she remains a woman without a country.