Sunday, December 23, 2007
Theatrical genius
It's the holidays, a period when people are gathered with friends & family and blog readership is surely way down, so I'll lay on you the least popular Conical Glass topic: yes, it's time for theater!

Overall, I saw a lot of incredible stuff in 2007 and except for my #1 choice, the rest of the top 10 could be fairly fluid.

1. "Great Men of Genius," Mike Daisey (Berkeley Rep): If I may quote myself, back on June 11 of this year: "Is it too early to declare 'Great Men of Genius' the theatrical event of the year?" Why, no; it wasn't too early at all, as it turns out. This was a genuine tour de force by the young, prolific monologist, five absolutely riveting hours. I'm on Daisey's mailing list and I keep getting notices of new monologues he's performing in places like New York and Seattle; his latest is called "How Theater Failed America." This is a guy with ambition and big ideas to spare. I hope the Berkeley Rep invites him back again in 2008, 'cause even after five hours, I want more.

2. "Angel Face," Cornell Woolrich (Word for Word): Who knew film noir would translate so well to the stage? I'm not always sold on Word for Word's "performing short stories verbatim" approach, but in this case, particularly with Laura Lowry as the dame trying to help her brother who's been framed for murder, it worked like a charm.

3. "Frost/Nixon," Peter Morgan (Broadway): This is the kind of show where you will look back on it for years to come and think how lucky you were to see Frank Langella and Michael Sheen in these roles. Fortunately for everyone who didn't make it to New York for this limited engagement, the actors are reprising them for a film due out in November 2008.

4. "The Pillowman," Martin McDonagh (Berkeley Rep): One of the most fiercely imaginative shows I've ever seen, in a typically well-produced and well-acted Berkeley Rep production.

5. "Sweeney Todd," Stephen Sondheim & Hugh Wheeler (ACT): I'm proud of myself for conquering my cannibalism phobia and going to see this play. (Please note, however, that I do not think I have the stomach to see the film.) The hyper-stylized, stripped-down version of the show puts the emphasis on Sondheim's magnificent score, not on the gore.

6. "Bulrusher," Eisa Davis (Shotgun Players): Every single thing Shotgun did in 2006 was sheer glorious perfection, so maybe their '07 season suffered a bit in comparison for me, but I did love this magical play by the multitalented Davis (soon to be starring on Broadway in the musical "Passing Strange"). She deserves to be a household name.

7. "Citizen Josh," Josh Kornbluth (Magic Theater): A year without Josh is like a year without sunshine. The man's plays make me smile and always provide a lot to chew on afterwards. I'm bummed that his wonderfully quirky public TV interview show got canceled (and just after I'd sent in my annual donation -- grr), but I'm sure there'll be new Kornbluth productions on the horizon, and I'm equally sure I'll enjoy them.

8. "Grey Gardens," Doug Wright, Scott Frankel & Michael Korie (Broadway): I didn't actually see the famous documentary until after I'd seen the Broadway musical, so now I'm even more impressed by how dead-on Christine Ebersole's performance as "Little" Edie Beale was. I wish someone was filming this production for posterity.

9. "Blackbird," David Harrower (ACT): As the 2,000 pound gorilla of the local theater scene, with a lot of older and more conservative patrons, you couldn't fault ACT for serving up splendid productions of chestnuts like N. Richard Nash's "The Rainmaker" and Somerset Maugham's "The Circle" (to name two worthy '07 offerings). "Blackbird," a taut, two-person show that races by in an intermissionless 85 minutes, was their edgiest show since Albee's "The Goat," and bless 'em for doing it.

10. "Jersey Boys," Marshall Brickman and Rick Eli (Curran): Since I'm not much of a Frankie Valli fan, I didn't expect to like this show as much as I did, but it's really a heck of a lot of fun. Bay Area audiences obviously agreed since it played almost all year long; I feel lucky to have seen it with what was apparently the best cast (the first one).

Shows I'm looking forward to in '08: Carrie Fisher's "Wishful Drinking" at Berkeley Rep, Tom Stoppard's "The Coast of Utopia" (nine hours long! -- I'm hoping my fave local actor John Mercer has a nice big role in it) and Mark Jackson's interpretation of "Macbeth" at Shotgun, and the touring production of "Spring Awakening" at Best of Broadway (since we missed it when we were in NY).

Best addition: Jud Williford to ACT's core acting company. He's just good in everything. I'm a little dismayed that he's only supposed to be in the company for the current season and hope they decide to keep him on... or, at least, that Jud (who made a splash early in '07 as the star of Mark Jackson's "American $uicide") sticks around the Bay Area. I still haven't gotten over Marco Barricelli. (Luckily, Marco may be treading the boards soon down in Santa Cruz.)

Worst show I saw in 2007: "Spamalot." I'm a fan of the movie and the Pythons, but I hated the musical. The one saving grace: no Clay Aiken.
posted by 125records @ 9:44 PM  
  • At 3:53 PM, Anonymous James said…

    I saw SPRING AWAKENING on Broadway (right before the Tony nominations came out) and it was terrific. It will definitely remind you of some of the things you heard back in west Michigan. I'll say no more!

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