Originally published on itsdlevy.net.
I’m not sure how many shows I saw this year, and I didn’t keep good enough record to count. Suffice it to say, I saw a lot, but not everything. Therefore, I’m not in a position to tumake a “best of” list or anything of the sort. Instead, I present to you a list of my favorite theater from 2015, in alphabetical order.
Last year, I listed a top 13, with one honorable mention plus three additional shows I had loved enough in previous years to see for a second time during 2014. This year’s list includes 15 shows, two of which were return trips, plus two honorable mentions, so I guess I have a fairly consistent amount of love in my heart available for great theater.
Barbecue by Robert O’Hara (The Public Theater)
I love a play that makes me laugh as much as it makes me think, and O’Hara’s postmodern look at a working class family staging an intervention, with many surprising possibilities for how that might play out, did both from start to finish.
Contemporary Color by David Byrne et al (BAM)
More a “theatrical event” than a theater piece per se, this collection of ten color guard performances set to live performances of original music by diverse artists including St. Vincent, Tune-Yards, Nico Muhly, Ira Glass, Nelly Furtado and others simply blew me away on every level.
The Flick by Annie Baker (Off-Broadway at The Barrow Street Theatre)
I was riveted, I was moved, and most of all, I was perplexed by all the grousing about silence. Yes, this is a play with long stretches of silence, but plenty happens while the characters are not speaking. Plays are more than just dialogue.
Fun Home (Broadway, Circle in the Square)
I saw Fun Home twice this year, and three times in total. This is the kind of show that offers new gifts to the view on each return viewing, and I hope I will have the opportunity to see it several more times before its run on Broadway concludes.
Hamilton (The Public Theater)
The heaving sobs emanating from my body when Eliza stepped forward to sing “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” at the end of the show remain a visceral memory for me.
Hedwig and the Angry inch (Broadway, Belasco Theatre)
I attended a performance shortly after JCM injured himself, but before he received treatment. The result was a fascinating, thrilling, dangerous performance fueled by adrenaline and painkillers that exemplified both star quality and the best of what live theater offers. An unforgettable evening.
The Heidi Chronicles (Broadway, Music Box Theatre)
It wasn’t a perfect production, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that in dramatizing the struggles of my mother’s generation, this production stood to accuse us of not following through on the foundations they laid. I’m also a sucker for any story that places friendships on the same level as romance.
The Honeycomb Trilogy (Gideon Productions, The Gym at Judson)
This year I fully accept that durational theater is my bag. Mac Rogers’s epic science fiction living room drama was thoughtful, surprising, and moving.
The Human Symphony (New York Neo-Futurists, New Ohio Theatre)
Dylan Marron’s experimental meditation on technology and romance cunningly employed new storytelling technology to emphasize how each of us in the audience can see ourselves in the stories of others’ romances.
Kapow-i Go-Go (The PIT)
When something that looks like a parody turns out to also be a sincere epic, real magic happens. I came for the laughs, stayed for the feels, and spent the rest of the year telling everyone I know to check out the show too.
King Charles III (Broadway, Music Box Theatre)
Mike Bartlett’s play sounded too clever by half until I saw it and marveled at a playwriting feat that was at once a technical marvel and an insightful comment on privacy, celebrity, duty, honor, tradition, and family in contemporary society.
An Octoroon (Theatre for a New Audience)
Another show I missed in its initial incarnation that I was so grateful to get a second crack at seeing. The ballsiest piece of theater I’ve seen in a long time, possibly ever.
Rasheeda Speaking (The New Group)
Tonya Pinkins gave the kind of intensely human, multi-dimensional performance that elevated Joel Drake Johnson’s play about racism. My friends and I lingered long in the lobby following this performance because the play gave us so much to talk about.
Significant Other (Roundabout Theatre Company)
A near perfect match of playwright (Josh Harmon), performers (most notably Gideon Glick and Lindsay Mendez), and director (Trip Cullman) created a heartbreaking play about a lonely gay Millennial with mental health issues that was successfully universal in its specificity.
The Woodsman (Strangemen & Co., 59E59)
A gorgeous retelling of the origin story of Dorothy’s heartless companion, realized primarily through movement, puppetry, and wordless song. This one’s coming back in the new year in a commercial production at New World Stages. Don’t miss it.
And my two honorable mentions:
Jeff Harnar & K.T. Sullivan’s Our Time and Another Hundred People. I didn’t think there was anything more cabaret singers could mine from Sondheim’s catalog, and then I saw these shows. I have written a full review of the latter, which I believe will be in the next issue of The Sondheim Review. Regardless, I highly recommend both volumes of this show.
Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird has been done in most major theater cities in the US, but it’s not coming to NY until 2016. We got a sneak preview in the form of a reading at The Pearl this year, and it was fantastic. I can’t wait to see The Pearl’s full production. Incidentally, I loved the play despite at the time having never read a word of Chekhov. (This is a contemporary rethinking of The Seagull.)
That’s my wrap up! Feel free to comment, ask, or argue. 🙂
Thank you so much for these reviews. I am planning to get to NY to see plays and your recommendations are invaluable.