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Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 On Stage

It may be redundant at this point, but I want to echo my colleagues and reiterate that it's really just gob-smacking to be able to live in a time of such bounteous creation, and to have the opportunity to see as much theater as I do. Between my personal theater-going, my responsibilities for our humble blog and my position as a regional critic for Talkin' Broadway (where I cover theatrical productions in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware), I saw well over 100 shows in 2015. Some were unbelievably good, some unbelievably bad, and many held moments of wonder. Narrowing down the list to a manageable number of "bests" wasn't easy, but that is what I have attempted to do herein. So, without further ado, here are the theatrical experiences that have remained foremost in my mind throughout the year (in alphabetical order):
Daniel N. Durant and Krysta Rodriguez in Spring Awakening.
Photo: Joan Marcus



Fool For Love: Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda are two of the most magnetic actors working today. Put them together in Sam Sheperd's tinderbox of a play and you better have Ladder 4 on standby.

Heisenberg: After disappointing outings in Hedda Gabler (2009) and The Snow Geese (2013), Mary-Louise Parker returned to top-form in this quiet, moving dramedy by Simon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) Stephens. She was ably matched by Denis Arndt, a prolific regional actor who should be seen more often in New York.
Mary-Louise Parker and Denis Arndt in Heisenberg.
Photo: Richard Termine

John: Never before have I gotten out of my seat at intermission of a show I was seeing, walked to the box office, and purchased another ticket for a future performance on the spot. But that is exactly what I did at the first (of two) intermissions at an early preview of Annie Baker's John. I ended up seeing three performances of this ambitious, atmospheric play, directed to perfection by her frequent collaborator Sam Gold and starring Georgia Engel in a career-best performance. I would be delighted if, as was the case with her Pulitzer Prize-winning The Flick, this supernaturally-tinged ghost story had a second life soon.
Georgia Engel in John. Photo: Matthew Murphy

Spring Awakening: I admired Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind's controversial classic when I saw it at the Atlantic (and later, on Broadway) a decade ago, but stopped short of loving it. Thus, the passionate response I felt seeing Michael Arden's conceptually ambitious, heart-stopping revival -- produced in association with Deaf West, the vital California-based theater company that has been leading the way for Deaf and hard-of-hearing actors for 30 years -- surprised me. This is theater at its finest, highlighting exactly what a revival should do: place an existing work in a new context. After the performance I attended, I immediately called five people and told them to buy tickets.

Phoebe Fox, Mark Strong, and Nicola Walker in A View From
the Bridge. Photo: Jane Hobson
A View From the Bridge: Ivo Van Hove is the most interesting director currently working in theater, and only he could get me to see this Arthur Miller play for the third time in under 20 years (especially since the previous two revivals, in 1997 and 2010, were both excellent). Van Hove's high-concept production, a London transfer, breathes fresh life into Miller's attempt to set a Greek tragedy on the docks of Red Hook. Mark Strong is easily the most virile and the most vulnerable Eddie Carbone I've seen, which is a perfect interpretation of a man who feels the world he knows slipping through his fingers but cannot help trying to hold on.

Happy New Year, dear readers -- and here's to some great theater-going in 2016!

Cameron Kelsall


1 comment:

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Good post.