Final show tally: 150 shows
Average ticket price paid (comps included): $8
Highest ticket price paid: $89 for Hello, Dolly!
Number of different states in which I saw theatre: 5
2018 goals: 200 shows and more international work!
Here are my picks for the 10 best shows I saw in 2017.
10 - TWO MILE HOLLOW
written by Leah Nanako Winkler
directed by Hutch Pimentel
produced by First Floor Theatre
CHICAGO, IL - Winkler's warped satire on white privilege set in a seaside mansion full of the deadbeats may make several obvious winks towards our present-day problems of income inequality. But First Floor Theatre's crisp world premiere production found the script's potential and delivered an unhinged mounting in hysterical form.
9 - 42ND STREET
directed by Michael Heitzman
choreographed by Jared Grimes
book by Michael Stewart & Mark Bramble
music by Harry Warren
lyrics by Al Dubin
produced by Drury Lane Theatre
CHICAGO, IL - When choosing to revive a popular musical there should be some motivation behind it aside from name recognition. Enter Everett Bradley's musical arrangements fusing synth-rock, jazz, and rock 'n' roll together for an electrifyingly new spin on the classic musical. This revival remains in the 30s but, under Michael Heitzman's direction, 42ND STREET is now scrubbed of the "Great White Way" ethos and feels more down-to-earth with diverse casting, choreography blending tap and hip-hop and a set consisting of exposed brick walls and stationary scaffolding.
8 - CHILL
written by Eleanor Burgess
directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian
produced by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
LOWELL, MA - It's 2001 in act one of CHILL and four high school friends meet in a basement on the eve of graduation to discuss their hopes and dreams for the future. Act two leaps forward a decade and we learn who the four friends have become. Burgess does a great job in using the events of recent history to carve out a play baked in dramatic irony. Director Megan Sandberg-Zakian's work on CHILL was subtle and successful. By focusing on characters and not being afraid of stillness, the production was truthful from start to finish.
7 - HELLO, DOLLY!
music and lyrics by Jerry Herman
book by Michael Stewart
directed by Jerry Zaks
choreographed by Warren Carlyle
produced by Scott Rudin
NEW YORK, NY - Duh.
6 - THE CLEAN HOUSE
written by Sarah Ruhl
directed by Rebecca Taichman
produced by Williamstown Theatre Festival
WILLIAMSTOWN, MA - The challenge in mounting any Sarah Ruhl play is unearthing and then maintaining the bizarre wavelength on which her characters operate. In THE CLEAN HOUSE, laws of physics break, speaking patterns are odd, the narrative takes sudden and baffling turns, and Ruhl never attempts to spoon feed explanations. I've seen productions of Ruhl's work collapse when a director treats the material as an absurdist tale, or with a straight up serving of realism. True, both of those elements have a place in her plays, but the exciting part is seeing the erratic departure from realism into something less compact. Acknowledging that challenge gives a deeper appreciation for Williamstown Theatre Festival decision to place acclaimed director Rebecca Taichman in charge of wrestling THE CLEAN HOUSE into a production making sense of all fringe elements
5 - CLOUD 9
written by Caryl Churchill
directed by Elizabeth Williamson
produced by Hartford Stage
HARTFORD, CT - CLOUD 9 was not only a highlight of the 2017 theatre season, but it was also the best production I've seen at Hartford Stage. Churchill's challenging script requires incredible versatility to convey the play's satirical message on colonialism and the company nailed it. Under Elizabeth Williamson's direction, CLOUD 9 never wasted time in explaining the illogical elements of the play and instead focused on striking at the core of the character's conflicts and made sure to have a downright messy time in doing so. Toppling the patriarchy and sticking it to gender binaries never looked like so much fun.
4 - THE ANTIPODES
written by Annie Baker
directed by Lila Neugebauer
produced by Signature Theatre
NEW YORK, NY - I was not prepared for the latest Annie Baker play because everything about it was kept a secret from the public. The excitement of seeing a mysterious new play by one of our best playwrights was enough to qualify THE ANTIPODES as one of the major theatre events of 2017. But what made it one of the best productions of the year was Baker's ability to craft a play about humanity entirely without exposition by using a simple premise; people talking while seated around a table. Lila Neugebauer's razor-sharp direction is the best work I've seen by her and her commitment to every damn detail (those scene transitions!) made this play feel like a naturalistic drama locked inside a dream.
3 - MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW
written by Halley Feiffer
directed by Trip Cullman
produced by Williamstown Theatre Festival
WILLIAMSTOWN, MA - Halley Feiffer was fearless when she wrote her modern adaptation of THREE SISTERS which boiled all of Chekhov's subtext to the surface level. In doing so, she ripped off the masks these characters wear and addressed their selfish motivations head on. The choice turns Chekhov's theme of unfulfilled desires on its head and unlocks the absurdist humor in the original script. Under the direction of Trip Cullman, MOSCOW was a coruscating blend of juxtaposing anachronisms, fearless of being nasty and messy, and showed the heights theatre can reach when a playwright's singular voice is fleshed out by a director's pastiche concept.
2 - EDWARD II
written by Christopher Marlow
directed by David R. Gammons
produced by Actor's Shakespeare Company
CHARLESTOWN, MA - What started out as his Master's thesis, director David R. Gammons spent a decade finessing his cutting of Marlow's queer-centric play about forbidden lust by wrestling it into a compact 8-person drama. Despite being produced in an abandoned fire station, the world of EDWARD II lived inside a 1980s bathhouse and was scored with new wave and pop-synth music. The design included Gammons' signature surreal aesthetic of fluorescent tubes on an industrial set of metal ladders and bridges. My favorite moment was the wordless ballet between Edward II and his lover Gaveston. Nothing else I saw in the greater Boston region compared.
1 - ROE
written by Lisa Loomer
directed by Bill Rauch
produced by Arena Stage in a co-production with Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Berkeley Rep
WASHINGTON, D.C. - No other theatre event affected me in 2017 the way ROE did. Playwright Lisa Loomer tackled the complicated 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court case legalizing a woman's right to abortion and spun it into a decades-spanning saga about a person's right to choose. A play about one of the most polarizing subjects in American politics could have been a liberal reverie where pro-choicers are the flawless heroes, and pro-lifers act like cartoon villains, but Loomer aims much higher by not letting her play lean left or right. Instead, ROE shoots right down the center by humanizing all characters (regardless of their political position) in a successful tactic at presenting this convoluted argument in an honest way. The play keeps piling on conflict until we see the full scope of this debate. After dumping all of this information into our laps, the play abruptly snaps to black and the audience is left asking how we might bridge the gap in this county. Directed by Bill Rauch, ROE took pleasure in being playful in the delivery of information and captured a right-here-right-now ethos with precision.
I've enjoyed watching artists experiment with how theatre can be a vehicle for change in Trump's America. Now, as we reach the end of 2017, I realize ROE was most successful in offering us a solution.