Solo shows have been around as long as there has been theater — longer, actually, if we count storytelling by a campfire. There is an elemental intimacy about the format and, let’s face it, an economic appeal at a time of belt-tightening.
Despite their seemingly restrictive approach, one-person productions come in many shapes and forms: tales told by a single narrator and ones in which the performer embodies many characters, for example; dramatic yarns; and comic efforts that can flirt with stand-up. The last hybrid seems to be enjoying a kind of golden age, illustrated by the successes of Mike Birbiglia (“The Old Man and the Pool”) and Alex Edelman, whose recent Broadway hit, “Just for Us,” will be at the Curran Theater in San Francisco, Oct. 26-28.
The coming months are a boon for theatergoers who love uncrowded stages, starting with the fall iteration of the cornucopia known as the United Solo Theater Festival (through Nov. 19 at Theater Row). Here is a selection of notable shows.
Sometimes, it takes one icon to take measure of to another. The French actress Isabelle Adjani (“The Story of Adèle H.,” “Camille Claudel”) engages with Marilyn Monroe, myth and woman, in “Marilyn’s Vertigo.” The show, presented in French with supertitles as part of the Crossing the Line Festival, is framed as a dialogue with the Hollywood star, and was written by Adjani and Olivier Steiner. Oct. 12-13; FIAF Florence Gould Hall, Manhattan.
In a different register, John Rubinstein returns for an encore of Richard Hellesen’s “Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground,” a dive into the life of the military leader-turned-president that has proved quite popular. Through Oct. 27; Theater at St. Clement’s, Manhattan.
One’s a crowd
The formidable Patrick Page is a versatile actor, but let’s face it: He is best known for portraying antagonists, including the Green Goblin in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” and Hades in “Hadestown.” Maybe it’s his basso profundo voice? In “All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain,” directed by Simon Godwin, Page — whose command of his craft our critic described as “stupefying, effortless” — scrutinizes those classic characters. This might be the only time we ever see his take on Lady Macbeth. Through Jan. 7; DR2 Theater, Manhattan.
Following his acclaimed solos “The Man in the Woman’s Shoes” (2015) and “I Hear You and Rejoice” (2018), the Irish writer and actor Mikel Murfi is bringing to New York the trilogy’s conclusion, “The Mysterious Case of Kitsy Rainey.” Murfi portrays a range of characters from County Sligo, and performs all three pieces in repertory. Audiences can see any of the shows, or all of them. Oct. 24-Nov. 18; Irish Arts Center, Manhattan.
Lameece Issaq has written for ensembles in works like “Food and Fadwa,” but her new piece, “A Good Day to Me, Not to You,” is a solo. In the show, presented by the Waterwell company and directed by Lee Sunday Evans (“Oratorio for Living Things”), Issaq plays a 40-something former dental lab technician reconsidering her life as she moves into a rooming house run by nuns on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Nov. 8-Dec. 9; Connelly Theater, Manhattan.
Stand-up or theater?
Gabe Mollica and Caitlin Cook are usually called comedians, but their work blurs the line with theater. Both performers are returning to the stage with encore runs of pieces that have been building a buzz. In “Solo: A Show About Friendship,” Mollica explores his realization that he has buddies but no close friends, and tries to dig into the reasons for that. Our ideas and hangups about masculinity may well play a part. Oct. 10-28, Connelly Theater Upstairs, Manhattan.
Cook’s “The Writing on the Stall” is inspired by the gold mine of comic material found on the walls of bar bathrooms. She has turned graffiti spotted over the years into a show integrating songs (a nice micro-trend among comedians; see also Catherine Cohen), bits of anthropology and autobiographical sharing. Oct. 16-17, SoHo Playhouse, Manhattan.
Birth of a performer
Four years ago, Ben Brantley described Edgar Oliver’s body of work as a “singular series of elegiac performance pieces,” which essentially amount to an oral history narrated by one person. Oliver’s new piece, “Rip Tide,” revisits his days performing at the Pyramid Club, the East Village boîte where renegade drag, rock, spoken word and performance art thrived in the 1980s and ’90s. Through Oct. 28; Axis Theater, Manhattan.
In her review for The New York Times, Laura Collins-Hughes pointed out how Melissa Etheridge turns Circle in the Square into an intimate music club for her concert-cum-memoir show, “My Window,” now on Broadway. Some of the rocker’s most fun anecdotes cover her early years playing lesbian spaces from her native Kansas to California. Through Nov. 19, Circle in the Square, Manhattan.
Table for how many?
Technically speaking, Geoff Sobelle’s “Food,” which is part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, involves a lot of people. Sobelle (“The Object Lesson”) is the host of a dinner party at which audience members sit at a very large table for what is described as “a meditation on how and why we eat.” Since “Food” was created with the magician Steve Cuiffo (“A Simulacrum”), it is no spoiler to mention it involves entertaining trickery. Nov. 2-18, Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Repertory of ones
Playwrights Horizons is making smart use of its space by presenting three solos in repertory. Drawing from years as a tutor, Milo Cramer wrote and performs in “School Pictures,” a play with music that looks at our education system via a range of New York students. The comedian Ikechukwu Ufomadu, who opened for Catherine Cohen at Joe’s Pub this summer, brings more of his surreal musings in “Amusements.” And Alexandra Tatarsky’s “Sad Boys in Harpy Land,” which involves clowning and nudity, looks to be the wild card of this bunch — emphasis on wild. Nov. 2-Dec. 3, Playwrights Horizons, Manhattan.