What to see Off-Broadway this winter

As is the case every year in the mid-to-late fall, many Broadway shows have opened in recent weeks, including “The Band’s Visit,” “Meteor Shower,” “Once On This Island” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.” At the same time, many promising shows have premiered Off-Broadway — or they will later this month. Below are a few highlights. 

"Describe the Night"

Playwright Rajiv Joseph (“Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”) takes on 90 years of Russian history, politics and culture in this ambitious new play with nods to author Isaac Babel (Danny Burstein, “Fiddler on the Roof”), the Red Army, the secret police, the KGB, the Berlin Wall, a Putin-like figure and the 2010 crash of a Polish aircraft carrying government officials. Through Dec. 24; Linda Gross Theater, 336 W. 20th St., atlantictheater.org

"A Room in India"

French director Ariane Mnouchkine and her 35-member Théâtre du Soleil are back at the Park Avenue Armory with a massive new work about a theater company stranded in India due to a terrorist attack, which combines Western and Eastern drama and addresses international politics. Through Dec. 20; Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Ave., armoryonpark.org

"Pirates of Penzance"

The Hypocrites, one of Chicago’s best-known experimental theater troupes, makes a rare visit with a trimmed-down, immersive, beach-party adaptation of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance.” Ten young actors play all the roles and instruments. Through Dec. 10; NYU Skirball, 566 LaGuardia Pl., nyuskirball.org

"Twelfth Night"

Fiasco Theater, a young, tightly knit troupe that has earned acclaim in recent years for its spare and inventive productions of Shakespeare as well as the musical “Into the Woods,” takes on “Twelfth Night,” the Bard’s impeccable blend of merriment and melancholy, which can be interpreted and staged in innumerable ways. Through Jan. 6; Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13th St., classicstage.org

"The Winter’s Tale"

After playing correctional facilities, homeless shelters and community centers, the Public Theater’s Mobile Unit brings this scaled-down new production home to the East Village. Tickets are free. Through Dec. 17; Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., publictheater.org

"Who’s Holiday"

Matthew Lombardo’s parody of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is finally receiving its world premiere. It depicts a 45-year-old Cindy Lou Who (Lesli Margherita, “Matilda”) living in a trailer parked around snowy Mount Crumpit. Through Dec. 31; Westside Theatre Upstairs, 407 W. 43rd St., whosholiday.com

"Cruel Intentions: The Musical"

This musical adaptation of the 1999 teen flick “Cruel Intentions” (a contemporary take on the French romance novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”) is being staged at the Greenwich Village nightclub venue (le) Poisson Rouge. The score consists of selections from the film soundtrack (including “Bittersweet Symphony”) and other 1990s pop-rock hits. Among the cast is Patricia Richardson (“Home Improvement”). Opens Dec. 9; (le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St., cruelmusical.com

"School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play"

If you can’t wait until the “Mean Girls” musical opens on Broadway in the spring, Jocelyn Bioh’s acclaimed comedic drama depicts teenage girls at a boarding school in 1980s Ghana vying for popularity and a shot at the Miss Universe pageant, including a queen bee who is threatened to a new student. Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St., mcctheater.org. Through Dec. 31.


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