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World's best theater comes to NYC at Under the Radar

The Public Theater's annual survey of the world's best productions begins Jan. 6.


Ever roll your eyes at a story about New York that obviously wasn’t written by a New Yorker? There’s a romanticism to it that anyone who actually lives here knows is purely fiction.

But when you ask the locals, that’s when real stories emerge.

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That’s the goal of Under the Radar, the Public Theater’s 12-day festival of over 70 shows representing the best of international theater. “These works are very intimate, so often they’re telling the stories that are more close to the ground than the larger pieces that come over,” says festival co-director Mark Russell.

Along with his co-director Meiyin Wang, Russell spent all year seeing productions all over the world, collecting recommendations from their “spy network,” watching video tapes and interviewing the artists.

Though Under the Radar is billed as a theater festival, the artists come from the worlds of film, dance, stand-up comedy and music, with performers arriving from as close as Brooklyn’s600 Highwaymento works from Canada, Chile and France; all but two of the shows are presented in English.

Accessibility is vital to the festival, with most tickets going for $25 and new ways to engage with the works.

Jan. 6-17The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St.$20-35,

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Besides post-show talkbacks, the Public's mezzanine level is turning into a pop-up library of books chosen by the artists that influenced their work.Beginning at 5 p.m. each night, head to The Library to grab a drink with the artists and discuss their work, and swing by Joe’s Pub for post show music performances. Entry to all of these events is free.

We picked four shows sure to inspire some late-night discussions.

Halory Goerger & Antonie Defoort : Germinale from adamhstewart on Vimeo.


“Germinal”

This play appropriately kicks off the festival with “a rather innocent investigation of creating life,” Russell says. A cast of four build a new world — its physics, philosophy, language and social rules — entirely from scratch, and in the process question everything we take for granted. (Performed in French with English supertitles.)

“Now I’m Fine”

Ahamefule J. Oluo combines his talents as a composer (Macklemore, Das Racist), stand-up comedian and storyteller (“This American Life”) to recount one of the worst years of his life — as a pop opera featuring live music by a 17-piece band. Gather ‘round and watch how a pro makes lemonade out of life’s lemons.

“The Art of Luv (Part I): Elliot ”

For this play, “we are transforming one of our larger theaters into a 75-seat theater, and people will be sitting on cushions and other chairs,” Russell says. “Coming to that performance needs you to shed your regular ideas of what a theater performance is, and this helps with that.” The story, told by the Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble, explores modern love and how men misunderstand it.

“Employee of the Year”

This is the festival’s own “Boyhood.” Brooklyn’s 600 Highwaymen have been working on the production for almost five years with a group of child actresses as young as 8 years old. “Now they’re 12 and 13, and they’re telling the story of one young woman’s life from 7 to 85,” explains Russell. “It’s really moving seeing the passage of time and seeing the child in the characters existing still.”

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