‘Life Sucks.’ Theater Doesn’t. Your Picks for the Year’s Best

Where was “Hadestown”?

That was one takeaway from New York Times readers when asked to tell us what shows our critics overlooked on their Top 10 lists. But in widening the scope to include work outside New York, too, we heard about productions in Atlanta, Boise, Rochester and Washington, D.C. — not to mention Off Broadway.

Here’s a sampling of edited responses, with one very passionate “Hadestown” fan standing in for several others:

Theatrical Outfit in Atlanta performed “The Laramie Project” in repertory with “Our Town” as its season opener in September. The masterful cast played multiple roles in both productions, giving life to the townspeople of Laramie and Grover’s Corners as they went about their daily lives. The common themes of ordinary life and tragic death made the pairing particularly meaningful. ALICE TENOLD, Milledgeville, Ga.

“Grief Is the Thing with Feathers” at St. Ann’s Warehouse moved me to tears. Enda Walsh is one of the most creative artists working in the contemporary theater. MELISSA STERN, New York

“Hillary and Clinton.” Am I the only person who found this a deep and moving exploration of relationships and love? CHARLES BEHLING, Dublin, Ohio

“Enter Laughing: The Musical” at the York Theater Company. Very modest in scope, and charmingly old-fashioned, it was one of the funniest shows I have seen in the nine years that I have been obsessed with theater. As a side note, someone in the production must have been obsessed with diction, because this is one of the few shows in which I could understand all the lyrics. MARIA CARMICINO, New York City

ACT Theater in Seattle staged a remarkable “Romeo and Juliet” that had every young visitor swooning. The beautiful actor Joshua Castille is deaf and so was his Romeo, taking his isolation to a whole new level. Sign language by Benvolio and the Friar to translate and communicate with him was incredibly touching, as were young Juliet’s attempts. A really special interpretation. SOFIA TAYLOR, Seattle

As a gay millennial, I’ve never felt a piece of theater heal something in me and break me at the same time the way “The Inheritance” did. RYAN HAMMAN, Chicago

Ardent theatergoers, my daughter and I saw “Tootsie” three times. She thought it should have been called “Jeff” — just loved Michael’s best friend. Sorry it is closing prematurely. May this comedic gem enjoy a long life through many touring companies! MADELINE FARRAN, New York City

I live in Alabama so I see many more local/regional shows than Broadway. I challenged myself to see 52 live events in 2019. Favorite new shows were “Ever After” and “Becoming Nancy” at Atlanta’s Alliance Theater. LAURA LEE VANN, Birmingham, Ala.

“The Royale” by Marco Ramirez at Geva Theater Center. The way the fight scenes were staged — with foot-stomping to represent the blows of the boxers — was phenomenal. The actors were strong and the pacing kept me on the edge of my seat. IRENE STUMBERGER, Rochester, N.Y.

Roundabout Theater Company’s production of “Toni Stone” by Lydia Diamond was the year’s best play. April Matthis’s performance as Toni Stone was transcendent. It’s a poignant story about race, gender, sports and Jim Crow America. The audience was on its feet. ANN ROMBERGER, Deerfield, Mass.

“Hadestown” is by far the most electrifying, heartbreaking, heart-wrenching piece of theater I have ever had the pleasure to witness. ERIKA SCALES, Ocean County, N.J.

The world premiere of Sharyn Rothstein’s timely, issue-driven “Right To Be Forgotten” — about the potentially disastrous effects of contemporary social media on individuals’ lives, and about moral compromise in the pursuit of the greater good — made excellent use of Arena Stage’s Kogod Cradle venue. CHARLIE FONTANA, Washington

I saw “The Smuggler” at a theater called Solas Nua in Washington, D.C. It is a phenomenal production of a one-man show about a poor Irish immigrant bartender’s views on immigration. The entire show is in rhyming couplets but it feels completely natural. CONOR PATRICK DONAHUE, Washington

“The Wrong Man” at MCC Theater was one of the most powerful, beautiful and wrenching plays I’ve ever seen. The singing, the dancing, the acting was superb. Devastated but totally captivated. LAURIE SAMMETH, New York City

I loved “The Wrong Man” so much that after seeing Ryan Vazquez in the lead role I made another trip to New York to see Joshua Henry as Duran. I hope it will make it onto a Broadway stage. I would love a cast recording with Joshua Henry as lead. LINDA LEWIS, Gainesville, Fla.

Standouts this season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival were Christina Anderson’s “How to Catch Creation,” with indelible performances by Christiana Clark, Chris Butler and Kimberly Monks. And Lauren Yee’s “Cambodian Rock Band” absolutely deserves all the attention and positive press it’s getting. It’s just a knockout. CAROLE FLORIAN, Ashland, Ore.

I loved the outdoor production of “Million Dollar Quartet” at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. The setting is sylvan and the sunset on the musicians is lovely. DEB EISINGER, Boise, Idaho

Definitely add “Seared” to your list. Here’s why: great performances, especially Raúl Esparza, who ranges from spluttering with rage and indignation to simmering over betrayal and defeat. MYRNA WALSH, Duxbury, Mass.

“Yen” at Raven Theater in Chicago. Elly Green’s direction of an incredible cast of actors took Anna Jordan’s script and brought out every emotion fathomable. I was a wreck leaving the theater. REBECCA SILBAR, Chicago

I want to give a shout-out to Trinity Repertory Company’s production of “The Prince of Providence,” a spot on examination of Providence’s most famous mayor, Buddy Cianci. The ending was one of the best I’ve seen in theater — a perfect summation of a deeply flawed man who was larger than life, even after death. ANNIE VOSS-ALTMAN, Providence R.I.

“A Woman of the World” by Rebecca Gilman, with Kathleen Chalfant. Whether it was the play or the actress — both in my mind — it totally captivated me. GERRY CORNEZ, New York City

“Do You Feel Anger?” at the Vineyard Theater was caustically absurd in the best way possible. The play highlights the cult of masculinity and the ways women have to adapt to it, which was something I hadn’t even noticed I was doing and had accepted as a fact of life. The playwright Mara Nelson-Greenberg’s dialogue ingeniously walked the line between hysterical and unnerving. ROMY NEGRIN, New York City

Despite including some serious topics and themes, “Love in Hate Nation” at Two River Theater still had upbeat songs, lighthearted moments and a happy ending. I enjoyed every second. MELANIE RAUSH, New Brunswick, N.J.

Aaron Posner’s “Life Sucks.” was a brilliant reworking of “Uncle Vanya.” I laughed, I was sad, and the play provoked a lot of thought about the complexity of the human condition and how, really, nothing has changed in that department in the last hundred or so years. I bought the coffee cup emblazoned with “Life Sucks,” and when I’m having a bad day, I use it. MARJORIE WOODRUFF, Weehawken, N.J.

I don’t understand how I got an email from you all about the best of 2019 and “Ain’t Too Proud” wasn’t mentioned once? GREGORY BROWN, Washington

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker