Theater: Three for A Two-Way Exchange

Off-Broadway gems reflect a kinship with regional troupes

Off-Broadway often thinks of itself as the "regional theater" of New York City. Part of its affinity with the theatrical provinces is financial. Although there are occasional commercial ventures, the off-Broadway scene, like the regionals, tends to be dominated by nonprofit companies sustained through donations. The bond is also aesthetic. The nonprofit troupes usually measure success artistically rather than at the box office and eagerly nurture esoteric work -- chamber musicals, offbeat new plays, quirky revivals.

The sense of kinship with out-of-towners has not necessarily diminished New York's role as cultural arbiter. Just as Broadway hits go on tour, so off-...

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