Posts Tagged ‘hadestown’

Culture Vulture: Top Theater of 2019

December 28, 2019

TOP THEATER OF 2019

  1. Fairview – I was a latecomer to Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, having missed it at Soho Rep and caught up with it at Theater for a New Audience (in a bigger and I have to imagine more ideal space). The play, Sarah Benson’s production, Mimi Lien’s set, Raja Feather Kelly’s choreography, and the masterful ensemble (especially Mayaa Boateng, Heather Alicia Simms, and Roslyn Ruff, below, photo by Richard Termine) rocked my world with its canny employment of theatrical elements to dramatize how we perform race for each other.

2. Octet – Composer Dave Molloy continued to astonish with this a cappella musical about a 12-step group for internet addicts, with a superb cast directed by Annie Tippe with extraordinary music direction by Or Matias.

3. American Utopia – David Byrne turned his latest album tour into a Broadway spectacle with the help of choreographer Annie-B Parson, staging consultant Alex Timbers, lighting designer Rob Sinclair, and whoever devised the technology to allow the musicians to roam the stage as self-contained entities.

4. Hadestown – Pop songwriter Anaïs Mitchell’s adaptation of the Orpheus myth was a revelation to me, beautifully staged by the great Rachel Chavkin with a bunch of remarkable performances, including Amber Gray, Reeve Carney, and standout ensemble member Timothy Hughes.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation surpassed my expectations, thanks to Bartlett Sher’s tough production and Celia Keenan-Bolger’s indelible Scout.

6. Fefu and Her Friends – Lileana Blain-Cruz’s exquisite staging of Maria Irene Fornes’s famous, rarely seen 1977 theatrical groundbreaker, with excellent sets by Adam Rigg, costumes by Montana Levi Blanco, and top-notch performances by all, especially Amelia Workman and Brittany Bradford.


7. Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven – another rich, messy, double-slice of life from Stephen Adly Giurgis with a crazy good ensemble (above, photo by Monique Carboni) directed by John Ortiz, especially Elizabeth Rodriguez, Kristina Poe, and the towering Liza Colón-Zayas.

  1. “Daddy” A Melodrama – Jeremy O. Harris has unerring instincts for language, stories, and imagery that make theater electric. Like his Slave Play (currently on Broadway) and Black Exhibition (recently at Bushwick Starr, above, Miles Greenberg with Harris, photo by Sara Krulwich), Daddy made up for its imperfections with puppets, outrageous performances, and Alan Cumming suddenly grabbing a mic to sing George Michael’s “Father Figure” with a female gospel trio singing backup.
  2. Adaku’s Revolt – MacArthur fellow Okwui Okpokwasili mounted this beautiful small piece for young audiences at the Abrons Arts Center.
  3. Soft Power – David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori collaborated on this curious, ambitious fun musical-within-a-play about reimagining The King and I from a Chinese point of view in order to heal the 2016 election results and Hwang’s experience of being stabbed.

Special Mention: Madonna’s Madame X show at the BAM Opera House was surprising, annoying, theatrical, and unforgettable.

Other memorable performance highlights: Michael R. Jackson’s A Strange Loop, beautifully staged by Stephen Brackett with brave Larry Owen in the lead; Netta Yerushalmy’s epic Paramodernities at New York Live Arts; Becca Blackwell and Danielle Skraastad in Hurricane Diane; exquisite design and direction of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Marys Seacole at LCT3 with Quincy Tyler Bernstine and Karen Kandel; Phelim McDermott’s beautiful campy production of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten at the Metropolitan Opera with a strong lead performance by counter-tenor Anthony Roth Costanzo (above); Lauren Patten in Jagged Little Pill; at least Part One of Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance on Broadway; Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman; Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas; Come Through, Bon Iver’s collaboration with TU Dance; and the Encores! Off-Center production of Al Carmines and Irene Fornes’s quirky, smart, devastating musical Promenade.

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