THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
The Home Away From Home: The theater scene has largely been confined to two boroughs, but this Long Island City space put Queens into play. In just the past year, major players like Mac Wellman, National Theater of the United States, and Target Margin have hopped on the 7 train to take advantage of its outer-borough elbow room: 5,000 square feet. “Who wouldn’t want to work there?” Wellman enthused in a recent interview. “It looks like a big piece of rock!” 5-49 49th Ave., Long Island City; 718-482-7069.
LA MAMA E.T.C.
The Grandmama: Ellen Stewart, one of the hippest, most plugged-in theater impresarios in town, gave everyone from Sam Shepard to André De Shields his or her start at this East Village fixture, where Stateside audiences once got their first glimpses of Jerzy Grotowski and Harold Pinter. With so much traffic (more than 2,000 productions and counting), quality can be variable, but that’s the surest sign of true experimentalism. 74A E. 4th St.; 212-475-7710.
LABYRINTH THEATER COMPANY
The Street-smart Scenesters: Yes, it’s a little disorganized, and the productions always seem to come together at the last possible second. But what gained fame as a gritty, virtuosic launchpad for author Stephen Adly Guirgis and director Philip Seymour Hoffman has expanded into a blitzkrieg of see-and-be-seen readings and Celebrity Charades benefits. Long after the buzz has faded, Guirgis’s Our Lady of 121st Street and Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train will still be studied, staged, and savored. 212-513-1080; labtheater.org.