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“THE CLIMBERS” | The programmers at Metropolitan Playhouse either have a fully functioning crystal ball squirreled away in the prop room of their East Village theater, or an extraordinarily keen sense of when something old is new again. That’s the only reasonable explanation for their uncanny ability to revive early American plays that turn out to be tailor-made for our times. Such is the case with the work that opens their 2017-2018 season, whose theme of “Resilience” calls to the modern mind everything from hurricane recovery to having the wind knocked out of you after an unwelcome election result.
Written by then-Broadway box office darling Clyde Fitch, 1901’s “The Climbers” finds the Hunter family reeling from the death of their patriarch — and bereft of assets or income (due to extravagant spending and an ill-advised investment). Two factions of the family emerge, with one side cooking up a fraudulent fundraising scheme and the other choosing the route of personal sacrifice. This damnation of Gilded Age greed and decadence, says artistic director Alex Roe, is “a welcome appraisal of a divided culture from a century past” whose “vote for compassion and empathy is one that should count again.” If the Hunters are divided, at least the creative team is on the same page. Directed by Metropolitan mainstay Michael Hardart, “The Climbers” has been cast with faces from past seasons who will share the stage for the first time — including Ian Eaton (“East Village Chronicles”), Margery Catlov (“Leah, the Forsaken”), Becca Ballenger (“The Hero”), and David Licht (“Rollo’s Wild Oat”).
Currently in previews; opens Sept. 15, closes Oct. 8. Thurs.–Sat. at 7:30pm; Sun. at 3pm. Additional 3pm performances Wed., Sept. 27/Oct. 4 & Sat., Sept. 30/Oct. 7. At Metropolitan Playhouse (220 E. Fourth St., btw. Aves. A & B). For tickets ($30; $25 for students/seniors, $10 for children), call 800-838-3006 or visit metropolitanplayhouse.org.
THE KRUMPLE AT THE TANK | Taking its title from the Japanese word for supernatural entities capable of mischief, malice, or good fortune, “YŌKAI, Remedy for Despair” doesn’t hold back on delivering Parisian-tinged Norwegian theater company The Krumple’s promise to combine “theater, dance, magic, poetry, and sheer stupidity.” But don’t mistake the pride they take in being silly for a lack of serious subject matter.
Clad in beige bodysuits, Yōkai-like members of the silent ensemble fill the empty stage with miniature trees, mountains, skyscrapers, and puffy clouds — then populate that world with destined-to-converge storylines involving a horrible car accident, a hungry cod, and a father/daughter’s toxic Christmas Eve. Cutting the constant despair with moments of slapstick and surrealism, The Krumple excels at deploying wordless whimsy in the service of themes both hopeful and disturbing. For a better sense of their ability to deftly move between such extremes, visit thekrumple.com and view the short film version of their Internet bullying stage show, “Do Not Feed the Trolls.”
“YŌKAI” is performed Thurs., Fri., Sat. at 8pm and Sun. at 3pm through Sept. 24 (also Wed., Sept. 20 at 8pm). At The Tank (312 W. 36th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). For tickets ($15–$35), visit thetanknyc.org.
—BY SCOTT STIFFLER