Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2012 Theatre Recap

Once again we join the year-end media meme with our list of our own personal "bests" of the plays, musicals, and operas we saw in 2012. Of the 93 shows we saw, 68 were in the San Francisco Bay Area at 23 different venues; 25 were in New York, Los Angeles, and Stratford, Canada.

This was one of the best years we can remember overall in terms of excellence in the shows we saw. We rated 52 of the 85 non-operas a "5" in our 1-5 rating scheme. (We are getting better perhaps in selecting which shows and venues/companies to see.) In the Bay Area, we found in 2012 the most consistently excellent companies to be SF Playhouse, Berkeley Rep, TheatreWorks, and Magic Theatre.

As in 2010 and 2011, we found ACT (American Conservatory Theatre) to be the most inconsistent among the professional, equity stages; of the eight shows we saw on ACT stages, we rated them 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5. Having the largest budget among nonprofit theatres in the Bay Area once again does not seem to lead to the overall excellence it should. What a shame.

For a complete list of all 93 shows and their ratings/venues, please go to http://guydads.com/ticketstubs2012.html.

So, whatever it is worth to anyone, here are our lists of the "Best" of a Very Good Year!

Ten Best SF Bay Plays of 2012 Seen by Eddie & Ed
1.  The White Snake - Mary Zimmerman, Berkeley Repertory Theatre
[Chinese folktale from Hangzhou. Madame White and servant Greenie (both snake spirits) romance a young man while a Buddhist monk seeks to expose them.]
2.   Any Given Day - Linda McLean, Magic Theatre
[Two plays occurring at the same time at 2pm on an oppressively rainy day. On the east side of Glasgow, Bill and Sadie prepare for their favorite house guest, while on the west side, two people close up the bar for the afternoon when a random opportunity presents itself. The relationship between the two does not become apparent until the end when we can see the full arc of these characters being lifted briefly by the promise of a good day and then finding themselves crushed once more.]
3.  Red - John Logan, Berkeley Repertory Theatre
[At the height of his fame, Mark Rothko struggles in his studio to finish a major series of murals. The brilliant master wrestles with his new apprentice in a battle of wits over a bucket of paint. ] 
4.  The Other Place - Sharr White, Magic Theatre
[A successful neurologist's life seems to become unhinged. Her husband has filed for divorce; her daughter has eloped with a much older man; and her own health is in jeopardy. Piece by piece, a mystery unfolds as fact blurs with fiction; past collides with present; and the elusive truth boils to the surface.] 
5.  Chinglish - David Henry Hwang, Berkeley Repertory Theatre
[An American businessman heads to China to score a lucrative contract for his family’s sign business, but the deal is not the only thing getting lost in translation when he collides with a Communist minister, a bumbling consultant, and a suspiciously sexy bureaucrat.]
6.   Body Awareness - Annie Baker, Aurora Theatre
[It's "Body Awareness Week" on a small Vermont college campus; and feminist professor Phyllis and her partner, Joyce, are hosting a male guest artist who specializes in female nude photographs. The couple is already struggling as they try to counsel Joyce's 21-year old son, Jared, whom they believe suffers from Asperger's Syndrome.]    
7.   The Aliens - Annie Baker, San Francisco Playhouse
[Beckett-like play crossed with a mumblecore movie. Two 30-something, former band members hold court in the ‘occupied’ back yard of a Vermont coffee shop. They lure a lonely teenager into their world of alienation and rebellion. Through male posturing and moments of shared glories, the troubled lives of the three young men, relegated as “slackers”, are revealed.]
8.   Othello, the Moor of Venice - William Shakespeare, Marin Theatre Company
[The mercenary Othello, general of the Venetian armies, has just married Desdemona, daughter of a powerful senator. But their delight cannot last long. The villain Iago will see to that. He is jealous for having been passed over for promotion by Othello in favor of the untested gentleman soldier Cassio. He will stop at nothing until he uses Desdemona to destroy the two men he hates.]
9.   An Iliad - Lisa Peterson, Denis O'Hare, Berkeley Repertory Theatre (Henry Woronicz)
[Adaptation from Homer. A preternaturally aged storyteller tells the tale of the two great opposing heroes, Achilles for the invading Greek forces and Hector for the besieged Trojans.]
10.   Time Stands Still - Donald Margulies, TheatreWorks
[After barely surviving a bomb blast in Iraq, photojournalist Sarah finds herself caught in a tug-of-war between her exhilarating career and the contentment of family life.  Returning home into the care of her long-time lover James, Sarah's caught off guard by his desire for family and by the simple domestic life pursued by Richard, her editor, and his much younger girlfriend Mandy.]

Ten Best SF Musicals of 2012 Seen by Eddie & Ed
1.  My Fair Lady - Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe, San Francisco Playhouse
[Musical based upon George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.  Outstanding production reinvented with an intimate cast of 10 on a small stage and with a younger, sexy Professor Higgins.] 
2.  The Scottsboro Boys - John Kander, Fred Ebb, David Thompson, A.C.T. (Hal Linden)
[Based on the notorious "Scottsboro" case of the 1930s, a musical minstrel show tells the shocking story of nine young African American men—unjustly accused of a shocking crime—whose lives would eventually spark the Civil Rights Movement.]
3.   33 Variations - Moisés Kaufman, TheatreWorks
[Examines the creative process behind Beethoven's Diabelli Variations and the journey of a musicologist, Katherine Brandt, to discover the meaning behind 33 distinct variations on a simple theme by a inconsequential music publisher. The progression of her ALS and her relationship with her daughter are also themes, as is Beethoven's deafness.]
4.   Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson - Alex Timbers, Michael Friedman, San Francisco Playhouse
[A comedic, Wild West, rock musical about the founding of the Democratic Party. It redefines Andrew Jackson, America's seventh President, as an Emo rock star and focuses on populism, the Indian Removal Act, and his relationship with his wife Rachel.]
5.  Pal Joey - Richard Rodgers Lorenz Hart, John O'Hara, 42nd Street Moon
[Joey, the charming heel with big plans, is back to take Chicago for a wild ride as he schemes to get to the top of the nightclub business.]
6.  Upright Grand - Laura Schellhardt, TheatreWorks
[Dad tickles ivories in a dive. Daughter dazzles concert halls. Between them, the bittersweet counterpoint of parent and child, respect and rebellion, dream and disappointment plays out in the key of life.]
7.   Falsettoland - William Finn, James Lapine, Stirfry Theatre
[A one-act musical centering on Marvin, his wife, his psychiatrist, his son, and his gay lover Whizzer. The son is preparing for his bar mitzvah; and Whizzer is suffering from a mysterious, life-threatening illness, which the audience recognizes is AIDS.]
8.  Carmelina - Alan Jay Lerner, Joseph Stein, Burton Lane, 42nd Street Moon
[A musical version of the film Buena Sera, Mrs. Campbell, which is also the source of the hit Broadway musical, Mamma Mia!]
9.   Big River, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Roger Miller, William Haupton, Mark Twain, TheatreWorks
[Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn sweeps down the mighty Mississippi, where runaways Huck and Jim discover a friendship that defies convention.]
10.   Les Misérables - Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel, Herbert Kretzmer, SHN
[A new-staged version (sans turntable) of the much-loved musical based on the novel by French poet and playwright Victor Hugo. Set in early 19th-century France, the plot follows the stories of many characters as they struggle for redemption and revolution.]

Five Best Non-SF Bay Plays of 2012 Seen by Eddie & Ed
1.  Tribes - Nina Raine, Barrow Street Theatre (Mare Winningham)
[Drama follows Billy, a deaf man raised inside the fiercely idiosyncratic and unrepentantly politically-incorrect cocoon of his home of his parents' house. He has adapted brilliantly to his hearing family’s unconventional ways, but they have never bothered to return the favor. It is not until he meets Sylvia, a young woman on the brink of deafness, that he finally understands what it means to be understood.]
2.   A Word or Two - Christopher Plummer, Stratford Shakespeare Festival (Christopher Plummer)
[One man show. An autobiographical journey through the literature- from the scared to the profane- that stirred Plummer's imagination since youth.]
3.   The Columnist - David Auburn, Manhattan Theatre Club Friedman Theatre (John Lithgow)
[Drama about Joseph Alsop, the extremely outspoken anti-Communist and very (well, maybe not so) closeted journalist and political power-broker of the '30s-'70s.]
4.  The Best Brothers - Daniel Maclvor, Stratford Shakespeare Festival
[Ardith “Bunny” Best has just died in an bizarre accident, leaving her sons Hamilton and Kyle to mourn in their very different ways. As each struggles to understand the other, the brothers begin to see more deeply into themselves and the unconventional woman who gave them birth. One is gay; the other, straight.]
5.    Henry V - William Shakespeare, Stratford Shakespeare Festival
[To unite in common cause a kingdom torn by civil strife, England's new king decides to enforce his claim to the throne of France. After initial success, he finds himself facing a vastly superior French force on the fields of Agincourt.  One of the best-directed productions we have ever seen.]
(Honorable Mention:  The Best Man - Gore Vidal, Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (James Earl Jones, John Larroquette, Candice Bergen, Eric McCormack, Kerry Butler, Angela Lansbury)
[In the Presidential convention in Summer 1960 in Philadelphia an ethical man running for the Presidential nomination runs against a "unscrupulous" man. Joseph Cantwell is a "bigot and a charlatan", while William Russell is the liberal candidate, "likable, forceful and humorous."]    

Five Best Non-SF Bay Musicals of 2012 Seen by Eddie & Ed
1.  Follies - Stephen Sondheim, James Goldman, Ahmanson Theatre, Center Theatre Group
[When former members of the “Weismann Follies” reunite on the eve of their theatre's demolition, two couples remember their past and face the harsher realities of the present.]  Our Number One Pick of Shows Seen in 2012!!
2.   Once - Enda Walsh, Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova, Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (Steve Kazee, Cristin Milioti)
[A musical based on the 2006 Irish film of the same name is a a slowly unfolding tale of two Dublin musicians falling in love.]
3.   Porgy and Bess - George Gershwin, DuBose & Dorothy Heyward, Ira Gershwin, Richard Rogers Theatre (Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis, David Alan Grier)
[The beautiful Bess struggles to break free from her scandalous past, and the only one who can rescue her is the crippled but courageous Porgy. Threatened by her formidable former lover Crown and the seductive enticements of the colorful troublemaker Sporting Life, Porgy and Bess’ relationship evolves into a deep romance.]
4.   End of the Rainbow - Peter Quilter, Belasco Theatre (Tracie Bennett)
[It is December 1968, and Judy Garland is poised to make a triumphant comeback ... again. The drama unfolds in a London hotel room as she prepares for a series of concerts at the famed "Talk of the Town" nightclub. Alongside her young fiancé and trusted pianist, Garland—with her signature cocktail of talent, tenacity and razor-sharp wit—takes on her most challenging role ever: herself.]
5.   Nice Work If You Can Get It - George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Joe DiPietro, Imperial Theatre (Matthew Broderick, Kelli O'Hara, Judy Kaye)
[A new musical loosely based on the Gershwin's 1926 bootlegger musical “Oh Kay!”]

Three Best Operas of 2012 Seen by Eddie & Ed
1.   Lohengrin - Richard Wagner, San Francisco Opera
[A young noblewoman, falsely accused of murdering her brother, dreams of being rescued and miraculously, her knight in shining armor appears. Lohengrin pledges to marry her and to save her homeland from invaders. But she must love him unconditionally, and never ask his name or origin. Tall order with two forces of evil plotting against her.]
2.  Nixon in China - John Adams, Alice Goodman, San Francisco Opera
[Tells of the groundbreaking visit of President Nixon to Communist China in February 1972, during which he met with Party Chairman Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, flinging wide the long-closed doors between the U.S. and China.]
3.  The Magic Flute - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Emanuel Schikaneder, San Francisco Opera
[The bird catcher, Papageno, searches for love and struggles to attain wisdom and virtue. Designed by Jun Kaenko] 

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