Sunday, 27 December 2015

My Ten Best of 2015

This has been an interesting theatre year, filled with excellent work from the younger generation of playwrights. Here's my list in no particular order:
HAMILTON. A rare show that is as good as its hype, and there has been a lot of hype. A brilliant show that parallels the life of Alexander Hamilton with the continuing immigrant experience in America, performed by a hyper-talented cast. I'm not a fan of hip hop or rap, but the show totally won me over. This is a classic.
The only other musical on this list, and the only revival on this list, is the Roundabout theatre revival of ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. Not as lavish as the original, but cleverly staged and given top-notch performances. I've always found Kristen Chenoweth a bit creepy, but I will no longer be able to imagine anyone else as Lili Garland. Peter Gallagher was superb as was the entire cast. And it was a joy to hear the brilliant Cy Coleman score (one of my favorites), so well performed.
THE HUMANS. Stephen Karam's funny, disturbing take on American domestic drama. This is another "holiday dinner gone awry" play, but one that is totally original.
This was a season of fine, very different, plays about gay men. Three stand out. Mark Gerrard's STEVE, was a bittersweet take on gay midlife crisis in the age of gay marriage and parenting. It helped to be a bit of a show queen as the text is peppered with references to show tunes. Joshua Harmon's SIGNIFICANT OTHER had Gideon Glick giving one of the best performances of the year as a twenty-nine year old man who is losing his best friends to marriage. Bathsheba Doran's THE MYSTERY OF LOVE AND SEX gave us a young African-American man going through the throes of coming out and what it does to his close friendship with his ex-girlfriend and her family.
Our two best young African-American playwrights had surprising, challenging new work. Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins' GLORIA focused on an office tragedy and the way a group of people interpreted and personalized it. Robert O'Hara's BARBECUE, a satire of racial representation and hunger for fame, gave us a narrative acted out by a white and a Black cast.
Lucas Hnath's THE CHRISTIANS was a serious take on faith and orthodoxy.
Jesse Eisenberg has a gift for writing and acting, dysfunctional, destructive characters. THE SPOILS gave us a young man with a talent for destroying friendships and romances.
The worst show of the year. Easy. IOWA at Playwrights' Horizons. A real mess.

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