When Damon asked me to write an article for the “Best Of’ series, I was immediately overwhelmed. A review of one show from all the amazing productions I had seen between Oct 2016 and Oct 2017? Now I am no Scott Pakudaitis as far as sheer amounts of theatre viewing, but choosing one out of the 79 would be a daunting task to most people. I think.
So, I narrowed it down to 7. Less daunting, perhaps, but not any easier. Why Damon!? Why did you ask me to do such a thing. My solution? I’m gonna try to write about ALL OF THEM! YES! Take THAT rules of how to write an article (I’m just a guest author after all. What have I got to loose?) Here are eight short paragraphs on why I loved the shows that I loved.
The Venetian Twins by Theatre Forever
Straight up, I am a huge fan of Theatre Forever (now WLDRNSS) and all of their work, so of course they had to end up on the list. This Commedia was delightfully performed and so freaking funny. Side note, I don’t normally laugh out loud when watching a show. I don’t wanna miss anything! This show, however, had me laughing like crazy. Alex Barreto Hathaway was stunning in his role of the titular “twins”. I swear two completely different people played those two roles.
The Oldest Boy by Jungle Theater
This play deeply moved me in ways I cannot put into words. For starters, I am a huge fan of Sarah Ruhl. She was the whole reason I saw the play in the first place. The other parts of it I enjoyed are a bit harder to explain. I adore puppetry; it has a beautiful way of communicating the mystical and mysterious. I love religion. All religions. I am so happy for a positive religious story to be presented on the stage. Motherhood. I am not a mother but there is something universal about motherhood. This play was, simply or not simply put, a maternal play. These three aspects within a play written by Sarah Ruhl performed by a talented cast. What more can I saw. I’m in love.
A Life-Size Dialogue with the Moon by LABRADOR
Yooooouuuths! These YOUTHS! Come on. Stop doing high school productions of Oklahoma! Instead let them write their own crazy, wacky, impossible, beautiful stuff! When youth are empowered to make the art that they want to make they create stuff just as good as any adult company out there. I cannot tell you what this play was about, which, for me, is a positive thing. I can tell you that it was an adventure across space and time that was unlike most things on the stage today. I’m excited to see what else these students put into the world.
Marie Antoinette by Walking Shadow Theatre Company
I do not like history. Or I didn’t in school. Names and dates was all it was (which are very difficult for someone with dyslexia and dyscalculia). As a result, my understanding of French history is pretty much limited to Les Mis. Don’t hate. I do not know how historically accurate Marie Antoinette is, but I don’t care. History is made up of stories of humans with desires, fears, hunger, and thirst. This is a fact I often forget. This production reminded me of the humanity of everyone, even hated and despised leaders. Oh shoot, I just made things too real for myself. Neal Beckman is the best sheep ever!
Vietgone by Mixed Blood Theatre
I almost didn’t write about this one since the Ivey’s had it covered. Their award for Ensemble was well deserved. There was not a weak performance in the whole show. Heck, there wasn’t an average performance in the whole show. Qui Nguyen’s script is a delight, of course, and Mixed Blood took that raw diamond and polished it in to a fancy shiny ENGAGEMENT RING. Bad metaphor, but you get the idea. It was funny, sad, thought provoking, sexy, and (hey look another one), historical. I loved the musical aspects of the show and the overall feeling of badassery.
On The Exhale by Market Garden Theatre
Here’s a secret. Unless there are puppets, I do not usually enjoy one person shows. I have nothing against them they just aren’t my jam. I always end up being profoundly aware of the actor on the stage. Jane Froiland’s performance made me forget she was anything but the character she embodied. I was so engrossed I still have vivid images in my head of the scenes she described in her story. And that story. That STORY! A heart-wrenching tale that took so many twists and turns. Whenever I thought I could predict where it was going, I was thrown for a loop. Froiland never gave away where the next turn would be and stayed with the story moment by moment. It was truly an amazing performance.
Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant: A New Musical by Devious Mechanics
Part of why I loved this show is in the title. A New Musical! New work is hard to do and one might argue that new musicals are even harder. This musical was hilarious! It had a great balance between spoken dialogue and musical numbers. The comedy was dark yet light at the same time. The songs were integral to the plot and the singing was great. Musicals are known for being so long, it can be hard for many audiences to sit through them. I think this show is a perfect example of how a musical can be short and fulfilling at the same time.
There ya have it! Shows I loved and continue to love. I feel deep gratitude to all of the artists who created these marvelous shows. Thank you one and all.