Culture Vulture: Best Theater of 2018

January 24, 2019

Best Theater of 2018:
(somewhat arbitrary ranking)

  1. After – Andrew Schneider’s spooky high-tech meditation on what happens to the dying body (Under the Radar)
  2. 24-Decade History of Popular Music – Taylor Mac’s temporary queer utopia (all 24 hours in Philadelphia)

  3. The Damned/NetworkIvo van Hove’s intense, upsetting staging of Luchino Visconti’s 1969 film about the rise of Nazism — performed by Comédie-Française at Park Avenue Armory with his usual peerlessly inventive multimedia design team — was eerily resonant with today’s shifting political landscape. Ditto van Hove’s London-to-Broadway stage version of Sidney Lumet’s 1976 movie depicting electronic media’s uncanny ability to turn grass-roots political rebellion into cash-generating consumer culture; Bryan Cranston gave a towering performance as the disillusioned newscaster who’s “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore”
  4. The Emperor – Colin Teevan’s adaptation of Ryszard Kapuśiński’s portrait of Ethiopian dictator Haile Selassie at Theater for a New Audience with stunning performances by Kathryn Hunter and musician Temesgen Zeleke
  5. The Head and the Load – William Kentridge’s spectacular, appalling pageant depicting the involuntary participation of Africans in World War I, at Park Avenue Armory

  6. Dance Nation – Clare Barron’s fascinating, constantly morphing ode to girl power at Playwrights Horizons
  7. In and Of Itself – Derek Delgaudio’s melancholy mind-blowing philosophy-seminar-as-magic-act
  8. Three Tall Women – Joe Mantello’s exquisite revival of Edward Albee’s play with ferocious Glenda Jackson
  9. Is God Isdespite everything I didn’t like about Taibi Magar’s production at Soho Rep, I was knocked out by Aleshea Harris’s crazy/bold language and theatrical imagination
  10. In the Body of the World – Diane Paulus’s beautiful staging of Eve Ensler’s raw cancer memoir

Other remarkable manifestations: Toshi Reagon’s music for The Parable of the Sower and Dickie Beau’s stealth AIDS memoir Re-Member Me, both at Under the Radar; Vox Motus’s puppet epic Flight at the McKittrick Hotel; the Performing Garage incarnation of the Wooster Group’s hommage to Tadeusz Kantor, A Pink Chair (in Place of a Fake Antique) ; Joe Mantello’s Broadway revival of The Boys in the Band ; Oneohtrix Point Never’s trippy theatrical concert Myriad at Park Avenue Armory; the brief, timely revival of Lee Breuer and Bob Telson’s The Gospel at Colonus in Central Park; Craig Lucas’s brave play I Was Most Alive with You at Playwrights Horizons, starring the mesmerizing Russell Harvard; Anna Teresa de Keersmaker’s spectacular staging of Six Brandenburg Concertos (above) at Park Avenue Armory (do you detect a theme? the Armory programming rocks — hats off to executive producer Rebecca Robertson!); Elaine May and Joan Allen in Lila Neugebauer’s fine production of Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery ; Daniel Fish’s bold reimagining of Oklahoma!  at St. Ann’s Warehouse; Heidi Schreck’s righteously outraged What the Constitution Means to Me ; Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s tough immersive drama The Jungle with its gigantic international cast at St. Ann’s; Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman on Broadway with another terrific huge ensemble, among whom Justin Edwards especially stands out; and Jeremy Harris’s edgy, form-smashing Slave Play at New York Theater Workshop.

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