1 at Franklin St.; 6, J, M, N, Q, R, W, Z at Canal St.
Since 1996, when it was founded by three Off Broadway heavyweights—director Jim Simpson, designer Kyle Chepulis, and playwright Mac Wellman—the Flea has aspired to be, well, flealike by presenting biting new works that nibble away at the audience’s complacency. Housed in a 1865 cast-iron building in Tribeca, the company’s two adaptable performance venues—an 74-seat ground-floor theater and a 40-seat basement space—have hosted the old guard (repeated premieres from A.R. Gurney) and the new (Anne Nelson’s 9/11 tribute The Guys, a stage debut). Yet the intimate space’s greatest contribution comes courtesy of the Bats, its 60-member repertory troupe that’s one of the city’s richest sources of young talent. Since you’re never far from the action, a sense of camaraderie permeates, especially when guest stars like Sigourney Weaver (Simpson’s wife), John Lithgow, Bebe Neuwirth, or Susan Sarandon take the stage.