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Broadway’s Best Two-Hander Shows

July 9, 2024

by Ben Togut

When many people think of Broadway, they think of bold, brash productions where a large ensemble or supporting cast is necessary to create onstage spectacle. In recent years, however, New York theatre has seen an uptick in more intimate shows with smaller casts.

This season, there’s a flurry of one-person plays coming like The Picture of Dorian Grey and Sugar Daddy, two-handers including The Roommate, Job, and N/A, and other fewer-actor shows including Maybe Happy Ending, Left on Tenth, and Oh, Mary! To highlight this growing trend in contemporary theatre, let’s take a look at some notable Broadway two-handers from years past and the one ahead.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune' Theater Review

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune opened off-Broadway in 1987. A comedy written by Terrence McNally, the play tells the story of two coworkers who after a one-night stand feel their connection may be blossoming into something more. The play has since been revived twice on Broadway, in 2002 and 2019, with the most recent production starring Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon. 

Broadway Review: 'Love Letters' with Mia Farrow, Brian Dennehy

Love Letters

Written by A.R. Gurney, Love Letters premiered on Broadway in 1989. Through a written correspondence of over 50 years, the play follows two childhood friends who maintain a romantic relationship despite being in marriages of their own. Love Letters was revived in 2014 with Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow in the first cast and Carol Burnett, Alan Alda, and Candice Bergen in following casts.

Nick Jonas, Adrienne Warren Starring in 'The Last Five Years'

The Last Five Years 

The Last Five Years premiered off-Broadway in 2001. Written by Jason Robert Brown, the musical follows the five year relationship between Jamie, a rising novelist and Cathy, a struggling actress. Unusual as a musical written for just two actors, it is notable for portraying the couple’s perspectives in alternating timelines, with Jamie’s side of the story being told sequentially and Cathy’s in reverse chronological order. The musical, which was also adapted into a 2014 feature film, will come to Broadway for the first time in spring 2025 starring Nick Jonas as Jamie and Adrienne Warren as Cathy.

Topdog/Underdog' Review: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Corey Hawkins Star


Topdog/Underdog opened on Broadway in 2002 starring Don Cheadle and Jeffrey Wright. Written by Suzan-Lori Parks, the play focuses on Lincoln and Booth, two brothers who live together after Lincoln’s wife kicked him out. Over games of three-card monte, Lincoln and Booth grapple with their shared history of adversity and their current struggles as adults whose parents deserted them when they were teenagers. Twenty years after its Broadway premiere, Topdog/Underdog was revived in 2022, with Corey Hawkins as Lincoln and Yahya Abdul Mateen II as Booth, winning the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play that season.

The Gin Game review – James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson light up a  bittersweet symphony | Theatre | The Guardian

The Gin Game

Donald L. Coburn’s Pulitzer Prize winner premiered on Broadway in 1978. Dubbed a tragicomedy, it follows two elderly residents of a nursing home whose games of Gin Rummy mirror their intensifying conversations in a tussle for control and understanding. Jessica Tandy won a Tony Award for her performance in the original Broadway production, and it was most recently on Broadway in 2005 with James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson in the two roles. A television production had also premiered in 2003 starring Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore.

Red | About | Great Performances | PBS


Written by John Logan, Red opened on Broadway in 2010. The play takes place in New York City in the 1950s and tells the true story of Mark Rothko and his commission to paint a series of murals for the Four Seasons restaurants. Red hones in on the relationship between Rothko and his assistant Ken, who questions Rothko’s motivations for embarking on such a commercial project. The original Broadway production starred Alfred Molina as Rothko and Eddie Redmayne, who won a Tony Award for his performance as Ken.

Nina Arianda dominates Broadway's 'Venus in Fur' – Deseret News

Venus in Fur

Based on the novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Fur premiered on Broadway in 2011. Written by David Ives, the play focuses on Thomas, a writer-director who is trying to cast an actress for his upcoming play, and Vanda, an unlikely actress for the role who convinces Thomas to let her audition. The original Broadway production starred Hugh Dancy and Nina Arianda, who won a Tony Award for her performance as Vanda.

The Mountaintop

Written by Katori Hall, The Mountaintop opened on Broadway in 2011. A fictional account of Martin Luther King Jr. ‘s last night alive, the play is set in King’s room at the Lorraine Motel, where he was assassinated in 1968. The Mountaintop’s catalyst is Camae, an angel who reveals to Dr. King that he will be killed the following day. Samuel L. Jackson made his Broadway debut in the original production opposite Angela Bassett as Camae.

Constellations' Review: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ruth Wilson on Broadway


Written by Nick Payne, Constellations premiered on Broadway in 2015. The play follows the relationship between Marianne and Roland, whose conversations about string theory and multiple universes are mirrored in the structure of the play, where certain scenes are repeated with different outcomes. The original Broadway cast starred Jake Gyllenhaal as Roland and Ruth Wilson as Marianne.

Broadway.com | Photo 2 of 18 | A Life in the Theatre: Show Photos

A Life in the Theatre

A Life in the Theatre premiered off Broadway in 1977 and made its Broadway debut in 2010, starring Patrick Stewart as Robert and T.R. Knight as John. Written by David Mamet, the play delves into the relationship between two actors as they work together on multiple projects. Robert, the older and more experienced of the pair takes John under his wing. In 1993, a television film adaptation was produced starring Matthew Broderick and Jack Lemmon.

The Roommate

The Roommate  

A dark comedy written by Jen Silverman, The Roommate first premiered at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in 2015. The play tells the story of Sharon, a recently divorced woman who needs a roommate to share her home. After inviting Robyn into her home, Sharon begins to discover her roommate’s secrets, encouraging her to explore outside of her comfort zone. The play will have its Broadway premiere this summer at the Booth Theatre starring Patti LuPone and Mia Farrow, with performances beginning August 29th. 

Job, Starring Peter Friedman and Sydney Lemmon, Returns Off-Broadway -  TheaterMania.com


Written by Max Wolf Friedlich, Job opened off Broadway at Soho Playhouse in 2023. A psychological thriller, the play explores the relationship between Jane, a young woman who has a breakdown at her job, and Loyd, a therapist Jane must see to get approved  to return to work. Sydney Lemmon and Peter Friedman, who starred in the off-Broadway production, are set to reprise their roles at the Hayes Theater, with performances beginning July 15th.