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“THE PLANTATION” — AN IMMERSIVE ADAPTATION OF “THE CHERRY ORCHARD” | First presented in 2015 — when pivotal anniversary dates in Civil War and Civil Rights history coincided — Brave New World Repertory Theatre’s post-emancipation, southern plantation adaptation of “The Cherry Orchard” calls Charlottesville to mind as it immerses the audience in circa-1870 dynamics of race, class, power shifts, and steadfast denials. Replacing Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s recently freed serfs and financially strapped aristocrats with emancipated Confederate slaves and bankrupted Southern gentry, director and Repertory Theatre co-founder Claire Beckman sets her adaptation in Virginia, and sets out to explore “the root causes of America’s most pressing social issue.” In doing so, “The Plantation,” says Beckman, “is our effort to return to the genesis of the conversation; the neglected and misunderstood period known as Reconstruction.”
Having gained acclaim for its site-specific, up-close approach (“To Kill a Mockingbird” unfolded on the front porches of tree-lined Flatbush; “The Tempest” sprawled across Coney Island’s beach and boardwalk), “The Plantation” will be a 17-person, fully formed production taking place in the Commanding Officers House on Governors Island. That 1843-built landmarked mansion gives plenty of period cred to this culmination of two summers’ worth of development; first, as a standing-room-only staged reading, then, last year, as a limited run. Even then, before Charlottesville cast its shadow, actor Blair Underwood hailed it as “a poignant, powerful, riveting and relevant production that resonates profoundly in these current times.”
Ten performances, all at 1:30pm, from Aug. 31 through Sept. 24 in the Nolan Park section of Governors Island, at The Commanding Officers House. Free tickets are available for each performance, with a limited number of guaranteed seats for $25; free ferries depart from Manhattan and Brooklyn before 11:30am. For ferry info, visit govisland.com/info/ferry. For tickets, visit bravenewworldrep.org.
THE DREAM UP FESTIVAL | While Theater for the New City’s fun, free, potently political street theater production (“Checks and Balances, or Bottom’s Up!”) makes its rowdy way across the five boroughs through Sept. 17, all is far from quiet at their East Village home base. Another annual happening — the Dream Up Festival — is set to unleash its quirky roster of full-length plays, musicals, and solo shows hailing from here and abroad.
Among the offerings: Nathalie Ellis-Einhorn’s “I.M. LOST!” has added poignancy this year, with the curtain having come down on the Ringling Bros. circus. Based on interviews with clowns working everywhere from hospitals to theaters, the show looks at why people stay in the art “despite inevitable failure.” Likewise, “Buskers: The Musical” explores destiny and determination through the lens of NYC subway performers. In “Finishing the Suit,” a tailor looks back, having lost his lover Jimmy and his most famous client — the Duke of Windsor. Set in a Los Angeles art school, “Dimensions” merges theater and dance with spoken word to tell the stories of young minority students exploring their sexual identity — and Craig Silver’s “God in a Box” has the conflicted solo performer mulling over options, when he finds the deity trapped in a container and placed in front of him.
Aug. 27 through Sept. 17 at Theater for the New City (TNC; 155 First Ave., btw. E. Ninth & 10th Sts.). Admission price ($12-$20) varies depending on the show. For show, schedule and ticket info, visit dreamupfestival.org. Order tickets by phone at 212-868-4444. For all other things TNC, visit theaterforthenewcity.net or call 212-254-1109.
—BY SCOTT STIFFLER