Fetch Clay, Make Man (through Oct. 13, New York Theatre Workshop), It’s 1965 in the United States. Vietnam, Civil Rights, Black Power, the Nation of Islam—all that was in the air as Muhammad Ali, whom some sportswriters still insisted on calling Cassius Clay, prepared to fight Sonny Liston in a heavyweight-championship rematch. As playwright Will Power tells the story, Stepin Fetchit (real name Lincoln Perry) known for his black-caricature film roles, was one of Ali’s guests. The tale is improbable but in some sense true. I haven’t checked the details, but Ali did in fact get to know Fetchit. Based-on-fact stories are common these days in fiction, film, and theater; they’re often problematic. I’ll leave that to be addressed by others. Having seen a preview, I can say the design, direction, and performances add up to a work of power and precision.
NYTW: Web site
Mr. Bengt’s Wife (Sept. 13–29, August Strindberg Repertory Theatre. The only known quantity here, for me, is Strindberg. This company launched itself in May 2012, but I learned of it only recently. And I’ve read or seen only a few of Strindberg’s works, of which Mr. Bengt’s Wife is not one. He was the most restless of playwrights, “perpetually dissatisfied,” as Robert Brustein wrote, experimenting with Naturalism, Expressionism, and a good deal more—including comedy, as Strindberg Rep showed in its debut production, Playing With Fire. Yet he may be also the most neglected of the Modernist masters. This company intends to produce his lesser-known plays (which is almost all of them) as well as the familiar. Bravo for that.
Strindberg Rep: Web site
Primetime Emmy Awards (Sept. 22 at 8 pm ET, CBS): One big question, which for me is the big question, is whether a company that never produced TV before the 2012–13 season—namely Netflix—will be among the winners. Indulge me in a quirk for a minute. All seven of the nominees for lead actress in a drama series—to use that category as an example—clearly did excellent work; will it make sense to discard six of them and recognize only one as “outstanding” (that’s the official Emmy language, not “best”)? Not for me. But most people like seeing awards as a game that can have only one winner, and when they disagree with the outcome they like disputing it. The industry cares who wins, and the viewers care, so I too am going to care how well Netflix does. It has a total of 13 chances.
Storm Large and Pink Martini (Sept. 22, Beacon Theatre. Many people who become pop celebrities don’t find it difficult to try out new lines of work. Heiresses land on TV, comics take up film acting, actors tackle singing. You might suspect that Storm Large, with her made-up-sounding name and a reality-TV show in her background, lacks credibility. You’d be wrong. She began by singing rock music, she has sung with the genre-crossing group Pink Martini since 2011, and last spring her native talent took her to Carnegie Hall, where she sang Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Writer Elissa Schappell, who worked with her once, told me she’s a “force of nature.” By the way, her name is real.
Follow John Branch: