There was a time when I saw over 200 shows a year. I went to everything I could. I was insatiable. That time is long past. I don’t feel the need to see everything “to keep up,” but I still love going. Here is my list of my ten favorite shows of 2014:
1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – I dragged my heels about seeing Simon Stephens’ adaptation of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel about an autistic kid with high math skills and low social skills but Marianne Elliott’s staging dazzled me with major contributions from Bunny Christie’s visual design, Steven Hoggett and Scott Graham’s choreography, the superbly contained lead performance by Alex Sharp (above), and Ian Barford’s deep, moving work as his loving, imperfect father.
2. The Ambassador – John Tiffany’s theatrical staging at BAM of a suite of songs about Los Angeles written and performed by Gabriel Kahane (below), the most interesting singer-songwriter I’ve encountered in recent years (Adam Guettel meets Ben Folds, brainy dense lyrics with high conceptual vision and pop friendliness).
3. Hedwig and the Angry Inch – Director Michael Mayer did a fantastic job of blowing up John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s beloved up-from-Squeezebox rock musical to fit a Broadway house and helping Neil Patrick Harris more than fill Hedwig’s stacked heels. Special kudos to Mike Albo and Amanda Duarte for the faux-Playbill framing the show as the aftermath of Hurt Locker The Musical.
4. Intimacy – The New Group’s Scott Elliott staged Thomas Bradshaw’s outrageous suburban family play, a smart and shocking comic book about the prevalence of pornography in American culture, with brave performances by game actors, none more than David Anzuelo in a role requiring him to be naked and erect every night.
5. Indian Ink – The long-delayed New York debut of Tom Stoppard’s 1995 play about sisters, art, and the ownership of memory got a splendid production at the Roundabout by Carey Perloff with a luminous leading performance by Romola Garai with help from Firdous Bamji and the great Rosemary Harris.
6. This Is Our Youth – The terrific cast (Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, and Tavi Gevinson) made Kenneth Lonergan’s play about overprivileged lost white kids compelling, in Anna D. Shapiro’s Broadway staging.
7. Scenes from a Marriage – the great Flemish director Ivo van Hove exerted his usual inventiveness in transferring Bergman’s film to the stage at New York Theater Workshop with an immersive set design by Jan Versweyveld and excellent performances by Arliss Howard and Tina Benko (above), Susannah Flood, Alex Hurt, and Mia Katigbak.
8. Cry, Trojans! – The Wooster Group managed to go even deeper, weirder, and more complicated than ever with this adaptation of Troilus and Cressida with eerie costumes by Folkert de Jong – hard to love, impossible to forget.
9. St. Matthew Passion – Peter Sellars’ grave, exquisite production of Bach’s oratorio at the Park Avenue Armory showcased the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle’s direction with several great performances, especially by Mark Padmore as The Evangelist (below).
10. Red-eye to Havre de Grace – This intimate musical spectacle at New York Theater Workshop about the last days of Edgar Allen Poe was a welcome introduction to the quirky talents of writer-director-designer Thaddeus Phillips and composer-performers David and Jeremy Wilhelm.
Audra McDonald’s fierce turn as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
Sting’s tuneful original score and David Zinn’s monumental set for The Last Ship
Tyne Daly in Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons
Anna Teresa de Keersmaker’s season within the Lincoln Center Festival
Landfall, Laurie Anderson’s collaboration with Kronos Quartet at BAM
The original cast recording of Dogfight, which made me wish I’d seen the show at Second Stage