January 3, 2015

My 10+ Most Memorable Shows of 2014

Just as I’m sure you’ve been doing, I’ve spent the holidays reading all of the year-end “Best” lists and after the usual “What were they thinking?” “Oh yeah, I forgot about that one” or “I wish I’d seen that” thoughts, the only real conclusion I’ve been able to draw is that there is no one definition of Best.

Hell, I don’t even know how to define it for myself. But as I think back over the shows I saw last year, I realize that although I really prize good acting (Machinal, The City of Conversation) and have an admitted bias towards shows that use inventive stagcraft (Love and Information, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) the ones that have stuck with me the most made me think or feel in a different way than I did before I saw them. Which I think is what great theater is supposed to do.  

So while my choices may not match up with everyone else's Bests (click here for a rundown of what some others thought) here, in alphabetical order, are 11 shows (yeah, I know it's supposed to be 10 but it didn't work out that way) that made me sit up and pay attention when I saw them, followed me home and still linger in my memory. I've also included links to my full reviews of each in case you want to read more:

1. Appropriate: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ masterfully reformulated the race card with his drama about a white family dealing with the legacy of slavery;  my review.

2. The Bridges of Madison County:  Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman turned a sappy novel about thwarted romance into a beautiful musical meditation on the rights and responsibilities of love; my review.

3. Casa Valentina: Harvey Fierstein crafted a deeply moving piece about pre-Stonewall-era men who found comfort—and distress—in dressing as women; my review.

4. Father Comes Home From the Wars, Parts 1, 2 & 3: Suzan-Lori Parks’ saga of a slave conscripted into the Confederate Army was a wholly original rumination on the meaning of freedom; my review.

5. Grand Concourse: Heidi Schreck’s drama about a soup kitchen was an affective exegesis of faith, hope, charity and the forgiveness of sins; my review.

6. I Remember Mama: This Transport Group revival cast all its parts with AARP-aged actresses, giving new life—and new insights—to John Van Druten’s 1944 play about a Norwegian-American family at the turn of the last century;  my review.

7. Indian Ink: Tom Stoppard’s homage to his boyhood in India and to the mysteries of the creative imagination was both intellectually stimulating and emotionally satisfying; my review.

8. The Invisible Hand: Ayad Akhtar's  thriller about a kidnapped American banker and his Muslim fundamentalist captors continued Akhtar's singular exploration of the tense fault lines between the Islamic and western worlds; my review.

9. Love Letters: Mia Farrow was heartbreaking as a woman who yearns to be accepted for who she is rather than how much money she has in Terrence McNally’s epistolary play about the 50-year romance between two mid-century blue bloods; my review. 

10. Our Lady Of Kibeho: Katori Hall transformed the real-life story of three Rwandan school girls who claim to have seen visions of the Virgin Mary into a haunting tale about the power of faith; my review.

11. Sex with Strangers: Laura Eason gave the sex farce a serious makeover with her sexy two-hander that explored love, work and the power of the Internet; my review.

Finally, Between Riverside and Crazy didn’t quite make even this extended list but I am glad that someone heeded the request at the end of my review (click here to read it) and is giving it an encore production that begins at Second Stage on Jan. 16, which would be a good way to start off a new year of great theatergoing.

1 comment:

Esther said...

So happy Sex with Strangers made your list. I loved it. I was a little wary because of the title but the play has really thoughtful things to say about publishing and the Internet and what it means to be a writer.

And I'm seeing Father Comes Home From the Wars at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge in February. I'm not sure if it's all the same cast but I'm looking forward to it.