Monday, December 24, 2018

Best Of ... 18 for 2018

2018's spring continued the trend of 2017's autumn, with rather a dearth of content, and a lot of disappointment along the way. I'm sad to say that it wasn't nearly as difficult to whittle down my list to a "best of" this year as it has been in years past (I mean, there was still whittling ... but it was less torturous). I also saw fewer shows this year than my record of last year: 118 unique shows, with six repeats at 124 shows total. 
The cast of Head Over Heels. Photo by Joan Marcus.

This year I also did something new to help me track my theater-going, as anyone who reads this blog knows: with my Weekly Margin digest, I made a concerted effort to document at least my first impressions of every show as I saw it, with the idea that it would make drafting this final post a bit more, well, digestible. This year's post is going to be more economic in fill as a result, with the idea that I have already said a deal of what I thought the first time around. 

So now that I've managed all our expectations, I will say that, as always, there were still extraordinary things to be seen, productions that reminded me why I love live theater so much, stories that thrilled me, performers who blew me away. So let's get to it.

(in semi-chronological order of viewing, rather than ranking)

The Undertaking (The Civilians/59E59): A remarkable and compelling two-handed exploration of death.

He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box (TFANA): Gut-wrenching and gorgeous, poetic and sparse.

Harry Clarke/Girls & Boys (Minetta Lane): A bit of a cheat, but as both were part of a series of one-person shows presented by Audible at the Minetta Lane, I'm grouping them here. The kind of masterful performances from both Billy Crudup and Carey Mulligan that reminds you why live theater is so special.

The Lucky Ones (Ars Nova): Good god, I adored this. Piercing and stunning, an epic breakdown of a formerly close-knit family. Someone please beg The Bengsons to make me a cast album already.

The Metromaniacs (Red Bull): A confection of wit and silliness.

Travesties (Roundabout): As perfect a revival of this madcap play as I could have asked for. A true highlight of the year.

El Barrio Shakespeare Festival: Lear/Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (Shakespeare Forum): Between seeing the Lear which devastated me and performing in R&G which filled me to the brim with joy, a wonderful wonderful memory.

Much Ado About Nothing/As You Like It (Hamlet Isn't Dead): This delightful company continues to produce engaging music-filled Shakespeare.

The Great Leap (Atlantic): Just marvelously done.

Head Over Heels (Hudson): I make no apologies. Was this show perfect? Probably not. But was it unapologetically--nay, joyously--itself? Tenfold. So glad I got the chance to see this delightful silly show three times.

Pass Over (Lincoln Center): Perfect. My god, what a gut-punch.

The Damned (Comedie-Francaise/Park Avenue Armory): This one has really stuck to my ribs, and grown in my estimation. Ivo Van Hove is an extraordinary theater artist.

Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties (MCC): Absolutely marvelous.

Oklahoma! (St. Ann's Warehouse): While I'm troubled by the liberties taken with the authors' intent, I can't wholesale brush aside the incredible work in this production.

Mike Birbiglia's THE NEW ONE (Cort): He's really such a master of the storytelling form. An absolute treat.

The Lifespan of a Fact (Roundabout): What an absolute treat of a play: three wonderful performers, a dynamic and interesting conflict of ideas, and also it's funny. I've also really been enjoying my read of the book on which the play is based.

The Ferryman (Jacobs): Oh. My. Word. Seriously, I know this play is long, but go see it. An epic family story with a similar scope to Tracy Letts's August: Osage County, but with Jez Butterworth's fascinating sensibility.

Emma (Chance): A lovely confection by Paul Gordon, and a beautiful wrapping up for the year.

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