We now know that Broadway promises the biggest season in recent memory — 23 openings — as well as one of the most interesting. But look at this highly selective list of Off-Broadway offerings, which are at least as enticing. In chronological order, my favorites appear to be:
JOAN OF ARC: INTO THE FIRE previews begin Feb. 14., Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. Unpredictable pop iconoclast David Byrne, whose last musical, “Here Lies Love,” immersed Imelda Marcos in an environmental spectacular, envisions Joan’s story as a rock concert.
MAN FROM NEBRASKA opens Feb. 15, Second Stage Theatre, 305 W. 43rd St. Pulitzer winner Tracy Letts (“August: Osage County”) takes us on a journey of a middle-aged man who lost his faith. Reed Birney (“The Humans”) is part of the formidable cast.
ESCAPED ALONE opens Feb. 15, BAM Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton St. Straight from a triumphant premiere at London’s Royal Court Theatre, the great Caryl Churchill’s latest is described as a “calmly revolutionary vision” of looming doomsday.
EVENING AT THE TALK HOUSE opens Feb. 16, The New Group, 480 W. 42nd St. Wallace Shawn, the brilliant playwright/provocateur, co-stars with Matthew Broderick, Claudia Shear, Jill Eikenberry, Larry Pine and Michael Tucker in this play about the 10th anniversary of a flopped play.
EVERYBODY opens Feb. 21, Signature Theatre Company, 480 W. 42nd St. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, whose “Gloria” was a 2016 Pulitzer finalist, riffs on “Everyman,” the 15th Century morality play. The title role is cast daily from the company through a lottery.
IF I FORGET opens Feb. 22, Pels Theater, 111 W. 46th St. Steven Levenson, who wrote the book for the hit “Dear Evan Hansen,” returns to the Roundabout Theatre group that nurtured him, with a family drama about the Holocaust.
KID VICTORY opens Feb. 22, Vineyard Theatre, 108 E. 15th St. John Kander, who created such landmark musicals as “Chicago” and “Cabaret” with his late collaborator, Fred Ebb, returns to the theater that produced his “The Scottsboro Boys” for this new musical about a teenage boy who returns home after having disappeared for a year. Greg Pierce wrote the lyrics and cowrote the book with Kander. Karen Ziemba, who got her start in the Kander/Ebb revue, “And the World Goes Round,” co-stars.
KUNSTLER opens Feb. 23, 59 E. 59th Street Theaters. Jeff McCarthy stars as the radical lawyer and civil rights advocate in Jeffrey Sweet’s gripping biographical psychodrama.
THE OUTER SPACE previews begin Feb. 23, Joe’s Pub, Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. Ethan Lipton, the delightfully idiosyncratic composer/performer of “No Place to Go,” is back at the cabaret with this new musical about a married couple who try to escape earth’s pressures in a spaceship.
THE PENITENT opens Feb. 27, Atlantic Theater, 336 W. 20th St. David Mamet is back at the Off-Broadway theater he co-founded with this world premiere about a psychiatrist who refuses to testify on behalf of a young patient. Chris Bauer (“True Blood”), Lawrence Gilliard, Jr., (“The Walking Dead”) and Rebecca Pidgeon (Mrs. David Mamet) co-star.
LINDA opens Feb. 28, Manhattan Theatre Club, 131 W. 55th St. Lynne Meadow, the company’s founding artistic director, stages the American premiere of Penelope Skinner’s drama about a woman of a certain age and the struggle for relevance.
SWEENEY TODD — THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET opens March 1, Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow St. This revival of Stephen Sondheim’s wondrously macabre revenge musical is imported from its hit at a London pie shop. Meat and vegetable pies will be served.
GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM previews begin March 14, Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. Harvey Fierstein, closely identified with musical theater for a long time, returns to drama in Martin Sherman’s play about an expat living in London at the beginning of internet dating.
JOHN LEGUIZAMO: LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS previews begin March 17, Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. The actor-monologist dares again.
COME BACK, LITTLE SHEBA and PICNIC open March 26, the Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson St. The unpredictable Transport Group devotes the spring to a two-play rotating repertory of William Inge hits from the ’50s.
ALL THE FINE BOYS opens March 1, The New Group, 480 W. 42nd St. Abigail Breslin co-stars in Erica Schmidt’s drama about 14-year-old best friends in ’80s South Carolina and the dangers of first crushes.
HOW TO TRANSCEND A HAPPY MARRIAGE opens March 20, Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center Theater. Sarah Ruhl, a Pulitzer finalist for “In the Next Room, or the vibrator play,” explores what happens when two New Jersey married couples invite a sexually unconventional woman and her two live-in boyfriends to a New Year’s Eve party.
THE HAIRY APE open March 30, Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Ave. Bobby Cannavale stars in this rare revival of Eugene O’Neill’s 1922 expressionistic drama about a worker who is destroyed by the rich.
THE ANTIPODES previews begin April 4, Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St. Pulitzer winner Annie Baker (“The Flick”) presents the second world premiere of her company residency. Details remain sketchy, but we can assume this has something to do with opposites.
HAPPY DAYS previews begin April 23, Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Pl., Brooklyn. Dianne Wiest takes on Samuel Beckett’s indomitable Winnie in this revival by Theatre for a New Audience.
VENUS previews begin April 25, Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St. Pulitzer winner Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog/Underdog”) and resident playwright at the Signature Theatre, revives her 1996 play about the 19th century black woman famous for the size of her posterior.
PACIFIC OVERTURES opens on a date to be determined in April, Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13th St. John Doyle, new Tony-winning artistic director of the Off-Broadway company, stages Stephen Sondheim’s bracing musical about the opening of Japan to western trade. George Takei stars.
BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE previews begin May 19, Playwrights Horizons, 416 W. 42nd St. Obie-winner Kirsten Childs (“The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds her Chameleon Skin”) wrote the book and the music for this western musical adventure about a scandal-plagued woman.
THE WHIRLIGIG opens May 21, The New Group, 480 W. 42nd St. Norbert Leo Butz, Maura Tierney and Zosia Mamet co-star in the world premiere of Hamish Linklater’s drama about the return of a long-estranged, ailing daughter.