Most everyone is, by this point, exhausted by the usual slew of year-end retrospective top-10 lists, myself included. Particularly when it comes to theatre, I tend to either disagree with the pieces selected or I didn’t get to see them, meaning that the lists are actually a summary of what I should have seen but didn’t get around to. Not exactly enjoyable reading.
And yet, here I am. The fact of the matter is, I’m fortunate that I got to see some really remarkable things during 2012, and a handful of productions did seem to have lodged themselves into my consciousness for good. Reflecting is fun, and I figured if I’m going to sort through my theatrical adventures of the past twelve months, I may as well share it publicly. By all means, take it for what it’s worth—the results of an undergraduate’s successes with student rush, mostly—and feel free to write off my opinions, or, if you feel so inclined, share your own. Lord knows I could discuss this stuff for hours on end.
On the whole 2012 was a great year for theatre for me, despite the early lines and lottery-induced anxiety. I don’t take any of this for granted—getting to see so much for so little is a true gift and I consider myself very fortunate. The good productions far outweighed the bad, and the really good were really freakin good.
So, presented in the order in which I attended them, here is my Top 12 of 2k12:
Ameriville by Universes; Presented by ArtsEmerson
Music, poetry, spirtuals, and political activism. I had never seen anything like it, and it made a die-hard Universes fan out of me.
Now. Here. This. by Hunter Bell, Susan Blackwell, and Jeff Bowen; Produced by the Vineyard Theatre
I’ve been a fan of the [Title of Show] gang since 2007, so to finally see them live and in person presenting such a funny, relatable collage was a true thrill for me. These guys are simply excellent in all things, and I’ve been listening to the cast album pretty much nonstop for the past few weeks.
As You Like It by William Shakespeare; Produced by Shakespeare in the Park
My very first Shakespeare in the Park experience! A great production led by the incredible Lily Rabe presented in the historic and stunning Delacorte. I fully plan on going to as many Shakespeare in the Park productions as possible in the future, but this was a wonderful way to begin.
Tribes by Nina Raine; Presented at the Barrow Street Theater
I went to see Tribes on a whim, not at all prepared for what truly incredible play it was. It was probably the most personally relatable play I’ve ever seen, and if caught me off guard in the best way possible. Out of every production on this list, this one is the most certain to stick around in my head.
Venus in Fur by David Ives; The Longacre Theater
The play itself is excellent, but Nina Arianda gave a performance that pretty much outscores any other I saw this year. I was completely enamored and captivated in the best way possible.
Hotel Nepenthe by John Kuntz; Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company
Again, another production where I had no idea what to expect. It’s a difficult production to describe, but I was completely in love with the off-the-wall style of performance and Kuntz’s voice as a playwright; it was also a great testament to ensemble acting. I laughed my face off and cried a little bit and was pretty scared for my life for the duration. It was a fun night.
The Orient Express (Or, the Value of Failure) (A Work-In-Progress) by Mike Daisey; Presented by the Theatre Communications Group
While I had never seen him perform in person, I was, of course, familiar with Mike Daisey, or rather, the controversy of Mike Daisey. I had read the transcript of The Agony and the Ecstacy of Steve Jobs and had closely studied the major “retraction” debacle in one of my arts management courses. But, to sit among the leaders of American theatre (the piece was presented at the 2012 TCG Conference in Boston, which I attended), and to hear Mr. Daisey masterfully articulate his experience and his thoughts surrounding it, was a true gift. This monologue has not been widely performed, so I consider myself very fortunate to have gotten to see it. I developed a strong respect for Mr. Daisey after that performance.
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare; Produced by Island Shakespeare
I went to see this charming production with my friend James at his request, and it was one of the best decisions I made all summer. Much Ado is my favorite Shakespearean comedy, and this production was a great example of finery and detail; not only were the actors masterful in their performances of the text, but the immersive structure of the production and the fact that if they weren’t delivering lines, they were speaking Italian for goodness’ sake, combined with the outdoor theatre and the players’ fully embracing the whimsy in the play made for a wonderfully remarkable night.
Marie Antoinette by David Adjmi; Produced by the American Repertory Theatre
This production tended to be hit or miss among my friends and colleagues, but I personally admired the writing, performances, and gusto with which all parties involved attacked the subject matter. The directing and design were bold, and it gave me a lot to think about. I still find myself thinking about it on a regular basis, so it fully deserves its place on this list.
Sequence 8 by Les 7 Doigts de la Main; Presented by ArtsEmerson
I always have a special love and appreciation for incredible physical feats; this is probably because I’m gangly and not flexible in the slightest. Regardless, the impressiveness of the performances were only outshone by the artistic detail and polished presentation of the entire production. I sat with my mouth agape the entire time. I wish I could see it again and again.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee; The Booth Theater
Much has been said about this revival; I don’t have much to say except I thoroughly loved it as much as everyone predicted I would. Masterful play, masterful actors, masterful direction…it was a great lesson in the craft of American drama. I hope to see it again, but if I can’t, I’ll certainly treasure the fact that I got to see it at all for many years to come.
Our Town by Thornton Wilder; Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company
Another production that has received much coverage and acclaim; similarly to Virginia Woolf, I went in with high expectations which were magnificently exceeded. I would love to live in David Cromer’s mind for a little bit, because he can certainly direct some quality, quality theatre. This was the last play I’ll get to see in 2012, and it was a wonderful note to go out on.
The Honorable Mentions:
Gatz (Elevator Repair Service); February House (The Public Theatre); Uncle Vanya (SoHo Rep); Uncle Vanya (Sydney Repertory Company); One Man Two Guv’nors (Broadway); The Luck of the Irish (The Huntington Theatre Company); The Lyons (Broadway); Cockfight Play (The Duke on 42nd St); Clybourne Park (Broadway); Pippin (The American Repertory Theatre); Hamlet (Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, presented by ArtsEmerson); Fela (International tour, presented by ArtsEmerson); War Horse (Broadway).
Yep, I’m a lucky student indeed. Your move, 2013.