Theater in America is as vital as it’s ever been—with one grim exception. I saw impressive new plays, imaginative revivals and virtuosic acting in 2017, not just in New York but throughout the country. The musical, though, is in dire creative straits: Not only did I cover no first-rate premieres in the year just past, but I reviewed fewer noteworthy revivals than ever before.
The best new plays, all of them mounted off Broadway or out of town, included
“After the Blast” at New York’s Lincoln Center Theater,
“Linda Vista” at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company,
John Patrick Shanley’s
“The Portuguese Kid” at Manhattan Theatre Club and the long-overdue New York premiere of
masterly “The Home Place” at New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre.
Broadway did a bit better by revivals, presenting exemplary versions of Noël Coward’s “Present Laughter” (directed by
Moritz von Stuelpnagel
“Six Degrees of Separation” (directed by Trip Cullman). No less noteworthy, though, were the Florida Repertory Theatre’s profoundly comprehending production of Mr. Guare’s “The House of Blue Leaves” (directed by
) and an extremely rare revival of
“The Skin of Our Teeth” (smartly staged by
for Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Theatre for a New Audience).
As always, I saw plenty of great acting, most notably from
in “Six Degrees of Separation,”
in an otherwise problematic Broadway revival of “M. Butterfly,”
in the ill-fated Broadway transfer of “Groundhog Day,” and five terrific regional-theater actors:
in “A View From the Bridge” at Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre,
in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (which he also directed) at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre,
in “4000 Miles” at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., and
in “Between Riverside and Crazy” at Florida’s GableStage.
Now, the best of the best:
Best performance in a play
Nehassaiu deGannes was fiercely impassioned in Shakespeare & Company’s production of “Intimate Apparel,”
2003 play about a turn-of-the-century black seamstress who falls for the wrong man.
Best performance in a musical
In Pittsfield, Mass.,
gave the best sung, most moving performance I’ve ever seen on stage as the ambivalent Bobby in Julianne Boyd’s Barrington Stage Company production of
The Transport Group’s off-Broadway revivals of
“Come Back, Little Sheba” and “Picnic,” directed by
Jack Cummings III
and presented in rotating repertory, featured a cast whose members—14 actors, six of whom appeared in both shows—made a powerful case for Inge’s sad tales of Midwestern loneliness.
Best classical production
crowd-pleasing outdoor staging of “Pericles” at Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre was a riotous explosion of pure joy.
Best revival of a modern play
Up in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, the Shaw Festival presented small-scale productions of Brian Friel’s “Dancing at Lughnasa” (directed by
“The Madness of George III” (directed by
) so fine that I couldn’t choose between them.
Best revival of a musical
was astonishingly good) at Boston’s Huntington Stage put a bright new shine on two important shows that were both in need of a fresh directorial approach.
Best new play
in New Haven and
off Broadway, it’s the story of a single mother with a severely disabled child who finds within herself the capacity for everyday heroism.
Best “new” musical
“The Band’s Visit,” which opened off Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company in 2016 and transferred to Broadway last month, looks like a solid hit, proving that it’s still possible to breathe life into a venerable genre that is otherwise showing few signs of good health. It’s full of sweet hopefulness and superlative craft.
Playwright of the year.
followed up her acclaimed 2014 stage version of “Sense and Sensibility” with identically ingenious adaptations of “Vanity Fair” (at New York’s late, lamented Pearl Theatre Company) and “Pride and Prejudice” (co-produced by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and New York’s Primary Stages). Between them, all three shows are putting Ms. Hamill on the map of American theater.
—Mr. Teachout is the Journal’s drama critic.