But “Sorry,” directed by the playwright, was not the only high point. Across the river in Brooklyn, a new adaptation of August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie,” imported from South Africa and rechristened in Afrikaans vernacular as “Mies Julie,” has pulses racing at St. Ann’s Warehouse, one of the city’s most dependable platforms for the vanguard of the form. St. Ann’s was, for instance, the key American showplace for the National Theatre of Scotland’s “Black Watch,” which subsequently visited Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre Company twice.
Director-adapter Yael Farber transfers Strindberg’s steamy story of a Swedish servant and his mistress to even steamier surroundings, a ranch in a desert of present-day South Africa, where restless Julie (a sensuously captivating Hilda Cronje) torments, bullies, cajoles and seduces farmhand John (the explosively physical Bongile Mantsai) under the anxious eye of his mother Christine (Thoko Ntshinga).
The raw emotion — and sexuality — of Farber’s production captures the essence of the lid coming off the resentments and taboos of the apartheid era. As a result, the play arrives here as perhaps the most meaningful evocation for Americans of the country’s racial politics since the heyday of the plays of Athol Fugard, author of “Master Harold . . . and the Boys” and “The Road to Mecca.”
The carnal contest between Julie and John has the tendency to exhibit a slightly purple as well as a blue dimension, but also thrillingly conveys a contemporary power struggle over post-apartheid claims to the land by blacks and whites. That conflict as a complex ancestral issue is brought powerfully to flesh here in the ethereal countenance of Tandiwe Nofirst Lungisa, playing a ghost of the black South African past, a grunting and chanting one-woman chorus of doom.
In the city’s most recently completed, and in all ways inviting, space for new plays, Lincoln Center Theater’s Claire Tow Theater, a playwright of promise, Ayad Akhtar, has found an appreciative audience for his smart and invigorating “Disgraced.” The fairly conventional if highly engrossing social drama tells of a secular Muslim American corporate lawyer (Aasif Mandvi), married to a Christian painter (Heidi Armbruster) of Islamic images, whose career is convulsed by his naive foray into the case of an accused terrorist.
Built on the roof of Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater and opened in May, the 112-seat Claire Tow is even more intimate than the cozily spectator-friendly spaces of Washington’s Studio Theatre . It’s a lovely anchorage for the company’s LCT3 program, devoted to new plays — and incidentally, a useful model for what Arena Stage might be doing with its third theater, the Cradle.
In “Disgraced,” skillfully steered by director Kimberly Senior (and premiered in January by Chicago’s American Theater Company), Akhtar spins an engrossing yarn that compels us to look freshly at how an American professional reconciles his ambitions, passions and heritage, and how pervasive prejudices and personal failings might thwart him. Like “Sorry” and “Mies Julie,” it asserts off-Broadway’s role as a critical scenic overlook for the newest in what dramatists need us to see.
Sorry, written and directed by Richard Nelson. Set and costumes, Susan Hilferty; lighting, Jennifer Tipton. About 1 hour 45 minutes. Through Dec. 2 at Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., New York. Call-212-539-8500 or visit www.publictheater.org.
Mies Julie, written and directed by Yael Farber, based on “Miss Julie” by August Strindberg. Set and lighting, Patrick Curtis; music and sound, Daniel and Matthew Pencer. About 90 minutes. Through Dec. 16 at St. Ann’s Warehouse, 29 Jay St., Brooklyn. Call 866-811-4111 or visit www.stannswarehouse.org
Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar. Directed by Kimberly Senior. Sets, Lauren Helpern; lighting, Tyler Micoleau; costumes, Dane Laffrey. With Omar Maskati, Erik Jensen, Karen Pittman. About 90 minutes. Through Dec. 23 at Lincoln Center Theater, 150 W. 65th St., New York. Call 212-239-6200 or visit www.lct.org.