The Best Theater of 2017: On Stage, Vitality in Every Way—But One

Home/The Best Theater of 2017: On Stage, Vitality in Every Way—But One

The Best Theater of 2017: On Stage, Vitality in Every Way—But One

This post was originally published on this site

Will Parker (Jake Swain) and cowboys (Alex Ringler, Mark Deler, Tripp Hampton and Marco Antonio Santiago) in ‘Oklahoma!’

Will Parker (Jake Swain) and cowboys (Alex Ringler, Mark Deler, Tripp Hampton and Marco Antonio Santiago) in ‘Oklahoma!’


Photo:

Diane Sobolewski

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

Zoe Kazan’s

“After the Blast” at New York’s Lincoln Center Theater,

Tracy Letts’s

“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

Brian Friel’s

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

and starring

Kevin Kline

) and

John Guare’s

“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

Chris Clavelli

) and an extremely rare revival of

Thornton Wilder’s

“The Skin of Our Teeth” (smartly staged by

Arin Arbus

for Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Theatre for a New Audience).

As always, I saw plenty of great acting, most notably from

Allison Janney

in “Six Degrees of Separation,”

Jin Ha

in an otherwise problematic Broadway revival of “M. Butterfly,”

Andy Karl

in the ill-fated Broadway transfer of “Groundhog Day,” and five terrific regional-theater actors:

Jim DeVita

in “A View From the Bridge” at Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre,

Frank Ferrante

in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (which he also directed) at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre,

Annette Miller

in “4000 Miles” at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., and

Leo Finnie

and

Gladys Ramirez

in “Between Riverside and Crazy” at Florida’s GableStage.

Now, the best of the best:

Nehassaiu deGannes and Medina Senghore in ‘Intimate Apparel’

Nehassaiu deGannes and Medina Senghore in ‘Intimate Apparel’


Photo:

Stratton McCrady

Best performance in a play

Nehassaiu deGannes was fiercely impassioned in Shakespeare & Company’s production of “Intimate Apparel,”

Lynn Nottage’s

2003 play about a turn-of-the-century black seamstress who falls for the wrong man.

Aaron Tveit in Harold Prince’s ‘Company’

Aaron Tveit in Harold Prince’s ‘Company’


Photo:

DANIEL RADER

Best performance in a musical

In Pittsfield, Mass.,

Aaron Tveit

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

Stephen Sondheim’s

“Company.”

David T. Patterson and Hannah Elless in a scene from William Inge’s ‘Come Back, Little Sheba’

David T. Patterson and Hannah Elless in a scene from William Inge’s ‘Come Back, Little Sheba’


Photo:

Carol Rosegg

Best ensemble

The Transport Group’s off-Broadway revivals of

William Inge’s

“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.

Tracy Michelle Arnold, Cher Desiree Alvarez and Juan Rivera Lebron in ‘Pericles, Prince of Tyre’

Tracy Michelle Arnold, Cher Desiree Alvarez and Juan Rivera Lebron in ‘Pericles, Prince of Tyre’


Photo:

Liz Lauren

Best classical production

Eric Tucker’s

crowd-pleasing outdoor staging of “Pericles” at Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre was a riotous explosion of pure joy.

Sarena Parmar, Fiona Byrne, Diana Donnelly and Tara Rosling in ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’

Sarena Parmar, Fiona Byrne, Diana Donnelly and Tara Rosling in ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’


Photo:

David Cooper

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

Krista Jackson

) and

Alan Bennett’s

“The Madness of George III” (directed by

Kevin Bennett

) so fine that I couldn’t choose between them.

Eden Espinosa, Mark Umbers and Damian Humbley in ‘Merrily We Roll Along’

Eden Espinosa, Mark Umbers and Damian Humbley in ‘Merrily We Roll Along’


Photo:

T. Charles Erickson

Best revival of a musical

Another tie:

Jenn Thompson’s

“Oklahoma!” at Connecticut’s Goodspeed Musicals and Maria Friedman’s production of Mr. Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along” (in which

Eden Espinosa

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.

Liza Colón-Zayas and Carrie Coon in ‘Mary Jane’

Liza Colón-Zayas and Carrie Coon in ‘Mary Jane’


Photo:

JOAN MARCUS

Best new play

Amy Herzog’s

“Mary Jane” opened at New Haven’s Yale Repertory Theatre, then moved to New York Theater Workshop, in both cases to well-deserved acclaim. Sensitively directed by

Anne Kauffman

and starring

Emily Donahoe

in New Haven and

Carrie Coon

off Broadway, it’s the story of a single mother with a severely disabled child who finds within herself the capacity for everyday heroism.

Katrina Lenk and Tony Shalhoub in ‘The Band's Visit’

Katrina Lenk and Tony Shalhoub in ‘The Band’s Visit’


Photo:

MATTHEW MURPHY

Kate Hamill

Kate Hamill


Photo:

Sub/Urban Photography

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.

Kate Hamill

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.

By | 2017-12-14T04:45:49+00:00 December 13th, 2017|Comments Off on The Best Theater of 2017: On Stage, Vitality in Every Way—But One