Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Best of 2013

What a year for theater! Usually everyone seems so down on the thought of "adaptation" because it's not "new" but when this year brings you some amazing adaptations that range from memoirs (Fun Home) to history (Here Lies Love) to movies (Kinky Boots) to novels (Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812) to book AND movie (Matilda), you forget the origin and focus on the brilliant material. Here's my list of top 5 productions of 2013!

1. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812
Three locations in one year means this show was in super high demand. A Russian electronic-pop retelling of “War and Peace”, this new spin on dinner theater was everything you wanted and more. The sensational cast expertly explores the hardships of love and trust in Dave Malloy’s captivating world as you’re served a delicious Russian themed meal. Even if you were terrified of the size of “War and Peace”, Malloy and Co. make it easy for you to understand and follow along. If you missed Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, you missed out. 

2. Pippin
The revival of the Stephen Schwartz’s was a spectacle in all the right ways. Diane Paulus’s circus themed Pippin brought a new energy and excitement to the fourth wall-breaking musical. The all star cast was mostly recognized by the Tony’s with nominations for their great work, though Matthew James Thomas was oddly left out for his portrayal as the title character. The spirit of the original is ever-present with Bob Fosse inspired choreography, even keeping his “Manson Trio” beautifully intact.

3. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
This Christopher Durang comedy may be his best yet. The commercial hit followed a family, ironically named after iconic Chekhov characters, as they attempt to pick up the pieces of growing old in their family home. Thankfully the cast helped make the show a knockout comedy. With David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen, Sigourney Weaver (later to be replaced by the sensational Julie White), and Billy Magnussen in the title roles, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was fun from start to finish. Oh and Kristine Nielsen’s phone monologue? Can you say Tony snub?

4. The Vandal
The Flea Theater produced one of the best plays of the year that should have been seen by everybody. Written by Hamish Linklater, The Vandal follows the intricate story of a teenage boy and an older woman simply waiting for the bus. Packed with witty dialogue and clever twists, Deidre O’Connell offers a standout performance alongside the sincere Noah Robbins.This little gem of a play may have been lost by some, but luckily it was filmed by PBS.

5. The Other Place
Quite possibly the most underappreciated show of the season, The Other Place follows the harrowing decline of a brilliant woman’s mental health. Laurie Metcalf gives a heartbreaking performance of a lifetime as Juliana, the woman dealing with the hardships of dementia just as she’s making her own scientific breakthrough. Luckily the Tony nominating committee gave her recognition for her beautiful work.