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How I Learned to Drive, The Total Bent, Rx and More in Our February Theater Round-Up

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hiltd, header image.gifHow I Learned To Drive  

This is Paula Vogel's masterful, dark and witty drama that won the Pulitzer Prize 15 years ago.  It's about an uncle who gives his young niece driving lessons, but wants to give her something more.  Two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz, a charming, dynamic entertainer, plays the amorous uncle, and Emmy Award nominee Elizabeth Reaser plays the besieged young woman, in a cast of 5.  Kate Whoriskey directs.
 
Second Stage Theatre, 303 W. 43rd St. Previews Jan. 24, opens Feb. 13- Mar. 11. More info here.
 
1.157958.jpgThe Total Bent

Here is a new musical by the creators of 2008's marvelous, multi-award winning Passing Strange, Stew (pictured above) and Heidi Rosenwald, directed by Joanna Steele.  A cast of nine tells the story of a white music producer from South London (downtown favorite David Cale) who collaborates with a black gospel singer from the southern U.S., in striving for both a hit record and spiritual enlightenment.  Stew, who won a Tony Award for Best Book with Passing Strange, writes the book and lyrics here, and joins Rosenwald in composing the music.
 
Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., (212) 967-7555. Feb. 14 - Mar. 4.

russiantransport.jpgRussian Transport

The New Group premieres a new play, written by Erika Sheffer, and directed by Scott Elliott.   It's a tense family drama set in the Russian Jewish community of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.  The cast of five includes Janeane Garofalo (!), who plays the mother of an immigrant couple who run a struggling car service, with a teen-age son and daughter.  When Diana's (Garofalo) sexy and mysterious brother Boris arrives to stay with them, things get tricky, and family loyalties are tested.
 
The Acorn Theatre, Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd St., (212) 239-6200. Previews Jan. 17, opens Jan. 30-Mar. 10. More info here.

23146470FED07A3-B44C-6D02-68B87C698B633128.jpgRx

As the television commercials fly by, does it seem that there is no limit to what pharmaceuticals aspire to do?  Here is a comical look at that possibility, written by Kate Fodor, directed by Ethan McSweeney, with a cast of six, led by the excellent Marylouise Burke (of Fuddy Myers fame) and Michael Bakkensen. The plot revolves around a woman whose job is making her unhappy, so she joins a chemical trial for a drug designed to cure "workplace depression." But she falls in love with her doctor, who's trying to join a trial group for a drug to relieve "heartbreak."
 
Primary Stages @ 59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th St. Previews Jan. 27, opens Feb. 7-Mar. 3. More info here.

VernonReid_BillBernstein.jpg
 Artificial Afrika - A Tale of Lost Cities

Vernon Reid, the charismatic Grammy Award winning leader of  the hard rock band Living Colour, has been developing this show for six years; and he will perform in it, in collaboration with Akim Funk Buddha and DJ Leon Lamont.  Using dance, film, music and visual art, Reid's piece shines a light on the conjunction between the Dark Continent, Africa, a continent with a multiplicity of cultures, and Afrika, a country of the mind, which includes everything from Tarzan to Aunt Jemima to The Darktown Strutters Ball.
 
Dixon Place, 161-A Chrystie St., (212) 219-0736, Fri. & Sat. in Feb., 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, & 25. More info here.
 

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