January 1, 2011

The Best Theater of 2010

The best thing about 10 best lists is that they give you a chance to look back and remember all the things you’ve done.  I can’t say that 2010 was the best year I’ve had going to the theater.  There seem to have been fewer high points and it was easier than usual to whittle down the list to my 10 favorites.  Still, the shows that I’m listing below are ones that I really loved.  They may not have been the best ones produced last year but they are the ones that I am happiest to have been able to see.

After the Revolution:  Because it’s always a joy to discover a promising new playwright and with her incisive drama about a family of committed lefties,  Amy Herzog has marked herself as one worth watching. 

Angels in America: Because without slighting the play's glorious language and grand flights of fancy, Signature Theatre’s current revival brilliantly underscores the humanity in Tony Kushner’s epic look at America during the early years of the AIDS epidemic.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity: Because this Pulitzer finalist by Kristoffer Diaz  deftly combines hip-hop-infused dialog and a sharp satirical eye to examine America’s fixations with celebrity, money and race—and was the best time I had in the theater all year.

Fences: Because Denzel Washington and Viola Davis gave powerhouse—but totally relatable—performances in Kenny Leon's superb revival of August Wilson’s now-classic drama about thwarted dreams.

The Glass House: Because this modest off-Broadway production of June Finfer’s thoughtful play about the rivalry between the great modernist architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson showed that you don’t need big names or a big production to do big work.

Lend Me A Tenor:  Because this revival of Ken Ludwig’s farce about the zaniness that ensues when a world-famous opera singer comes to a small Midwestern town pretended to be nothing more than a good time and succeeded by making my husband K laugh so hard that he cried and when K is happy, I'm happy.

A Lie of the Mind: Because it’s taken me a long time to appreciate Sam Shepard’s genius and I might have gotten it sooner if the productions I’d seen had been as affecting as this one directed by Ethan Hawke and performed by an all-star ensemble lead by the remarkable Marin Ireland.

The Pride: Because Brit playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell’s artful look at how the lives of gay men and the women who love them have changed between the 1950s and the present potently reminds us why we shouldn’t take the progress that’s been made for granted or fail to push for full equality.

Time Stands Still: Because Donald Margulies is a master of plays that make you both think and feel and his searing drama about journalists, indelibly played by Laura Linney and Brian d’Arcy James, and the collateral damages of wars in places like Iraq and Afghanistan is one of his best.

Yank!: Not just because the NYFD rescued my friend Jessie and me when we got stuck in the theater’s elevator but because it was lovely to see an old-fashioned musical, with humable songs by the brothers Joseph and David Zellnik, get a contemporary twist by giving the roles of the romantic leads to two guys.

So Happy New Year... and may 2011 bring us all lots of good theater to see.

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