Since I spent half of the year still writing theater reviews, I felt as though I should still write a post on the highlights of what I saw this year. I’m not going to put out a list of the best plays of the year because I missed Harper Reagan, The Brother/Sister Plays, Cabaret as done by The Hypocrites, and Suicide Incorporated, among others. (Plus, I’m seeing Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? next year due to scheduling.) Overall, I saw 45 plays this year. I saw 11 plays in February, which is the most I’ve ever seen in a single month. I also went two months without seeing a play due to my involvement with Theatre Cedar Rapids’ Still Life With Iris and Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre’s Flight of the Lawnchair Man. So, here’s a list of what were the highlights and one disappointment among plays that opened this year that I saw.
–The Year of Magical Thinking at Court Theatre
The one-woman play by Joan Didion, based on her book of the same title, featured a terrific performance from Mary Beth Fisher as Didion, trying to cope with the death of her husband and the illness of her daughter. The intimate-feeling production directed by Charles Newell felt like a very lovely, heartbreaking conversation with Joan Didion rather than a play, which is probably why it had such a strong emotional impact for me.
–And He Flew Over the Forest by Brain Surgeon Theatre at Prop Thtr
Randall Colburn and Gwen Tulin’s play about a girl on the verge of adolescence as her family squabbles made me cry. Twice. (I saw it twice.) It was short, under one hour long, and had a lovely earthy set for the forest that the family was spending their vacation in. With the immersive environment of the play, as well as the songs dispersed throughout the play, my disbelief was suspended, which is sometimes hard for a work to do. It was well worth the two trips out to Prop Thtr.
–Cabaret by The Theatre School at DePaul University
This production shook me up emotionally and any production that can do that, regardless of it’s a university production or a non-Equity production or an Equity production, should be taken note of. This production, directed by Barry Brunetti, was not as scaled-back as The Hypocrites’ production (which I missed), but this production was heart-wrenching and showed how relevant Kander and Ebb’s musical still is.
–K. by The Hypocrites
Greg Allen’s adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial was intense but simple, featuring terrific performances from all involved. Although I’m still on the fence on the use of an intermission in the play, it was a great play to see after a hiatus from seeing theater.
–The Producers by Theatre Cedar Rapids
The inaugural production at the renovated Iowa Theatre signaled that Theatre Cedar Rapids was back. Having seen this production on Broadway, I can say that this production, helmed by Leslie Charipar, was more enjoyable than what I saw on Broadway. Both Scott Schulte and Trevor Debth’s performances as Bialystock and Bloom, respectively, were new versions on the characters, originated by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick on Broadway. The production was the most fun I had at the theater this year and was definitely a highlight. (Also, I missed Rent. I have no opinion on their production of Rent and I am sorry that I missed it.)
–Cherrywood by Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company
Kirk Lynn’s play about a house party was done by Mary-Arrchie under the direction of David Cromer, who cast 49 actors to create an energetic, fascinating evening of theater in the small space the theater company performs in. Although I would have loved to see it in its original production, it was an excellent production to witness.
–Wilson Wants It All by House Theatre of Chicago
I had heard from practically everyone that House was amazing and I needed to see one of their plays. Unfortunately, it seems as though Wilson Wants It All was not a good introduction to their work. With a predictable, dull script that the terrific performances couldn’t over come, it was one of the few moments where I wished a play was 90 minute one-act. Although I plan on seeing Odradek and Star Witness next year because I feel as though House deserves a second chance.