Friday, December 23, 2011

11 in '11: The Best of the Year

I'm no Brantley or Isherwood. I'm not even a David Cote. But I have been privileged to see some wonderful productions in 2011. With that being said, the usual suspects of the best of the year that may have been found on some of the other year-end wrap ups probably won't be on mine as I haven't been able to see them because I haven't been invited! (ie: The Book of Mormon, which I'm still dying to see...wink, wink...). So alas, my top 11 in alphabetical order.

Completeness (Playwrights Horizons)
Itamar Moses has a gift for establishing relationships in his plays, and this one was no different. The science-laden dramady about finding the thing that completes you was perfectly directed by Pam MacKinnon with a superb cast bringing Moses's words to life. Still one of my favorite productions I've ever seen.

Exit Carolyn (Sans A Productions/The Drilling Company)

Finding a gem in the Indie Theater world can be hard. But look no further than the wonderful Exit Carolyn by Jennie Bergman Eng. The well-rounded play had a top notch cast, with a brilliant performance by Laura Ramadei, directed by Adam Knight.


Jerusalem (Broadway)
It's safe to say that Mark Rylance's Rooster is that solidifies his brilliant career. The tour-de-force role led this outstanding production to all the hype it deserved. Jerusalem is an experience. Jez Butterworth has written a masterpiece that will be remembered forever, all thanks to Mr. Rylance.

Kin (Playwrights Horizons)
Bathsheba Doran wrote a play about varying relationships that were told through intertwining scenes that brought all the characters together. Sounds simple, but it was her brilliant writing and a sublime ensemble that made Kin a super success. The complexity and depth of her characters each with some great dialogue made audiences relate to at least one character. Oh, and then there was that hilarious and heart-wrenching performance by Laura Heisler.

Lysistrata Jones (Transport Group/Broadway)
Give it up for this bawdy musical about sex! The adaptation of the Greek comedy Lysistrata was a hit Off Broadway before transferring to the Great White Way. With Douglas Carter Beane's witty and funny book and Lewis Flinn's humworthy score, there's no way you can't but walk out of the theater grinning and wanting more. Lysistrata Jones is the slamdunk sleeper of the season.

Peter and the Starcatcher (New York Theater Workshop)
Taking a piece of theater and actually making it a work of theater is quite rare. But Peter and the Starcatcher was theater at its best. With a hard-working ensemble, led by the always brilliant and comical Christian Borle and rising star Adam Chanler-Berat, there was never a dull or dry moment. Written by Rick Elice, adapted from the Peter Pan prequel, the simple yet complex staging by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers displays why theater is wonderful when you let the audience play pretend.

Self Taut (Dixon Place’s HOT Festival)
Written and created by Chris Tyler, this gem of a solo piece followed Tyler as he retold his high school tales of self-awareness, friendship, love, and the apprehension of intimacy. Tyler is a brilliant performer. Look out for what he does next because it's bound to be great. I think I'll declare 2012 the year of Chris Tyler

Stick Fly (Broadway)

After hit productions in Boston and Washington, DC, Stick Fly is a sleeper hit of the year. This play about class, race, and family is witty and sharp with an ensemble to die for. Condola Rashad gives a stellar performance that will should be remembered come next June.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die in 3-D (NYMF 2011)

The musical horror comedy genre has a new hit on their hands. The Brain That Wouldn't Die in 3-D is a laugh out loud musical inspired by the B horror classic of the same name (minus the 3-D). The six person cast takes on a plethora of stock characters that get funnier and funnier as the show goes on. Kathy Voytko gives a stand out performance playing a head for the majority of the show. Look out for this show in the future.

The More Loving One (NYFringe 2011)
Usually the New York International Fringe Festival is filled with gimmick pieces so when you get a true work of art, it shines. The four hander about two couples, one straight, one gay, all searching for the meaning of love and how to mend their own relationships is brilliantly written by Corey Conley. A genuine piece of theater led by a great cast.

The Normal Heart (Broadway)

What hasn't been said about this Larry Kramer revival? This poignant piece had everybody talking and thinking and crying and wanting to find an answer. Joe Mantello gives a wonderful performance as Ned Weeks (quite possibly better than Rylance's brilliant Tony winning performance) but it was Ellen Barkin's showstopping monologue that solidified the production. When was the last time a monologue received an uproarious round of applause?