- Hamlet, Actors’ Shakespeare Project
Although this Doug Lockwood-directed production was imperfect, it was one of a kind: Atmospheric, cinematic, and stylish, this streamlined adaptation played beautifully in the Church of the Covenant. Equally enchanting was Omar Robinson’s slyly modern take on the title role.
- Fiddler on the Roof, New Repertory Theatre
Director Austin Pendleton, who was in the original Broadway production, got right to the beating heart of this classical masterwork. Teeming with life and rich character study, Fiddler was one of the most enthralling experiences of 2016.
- Disgraced, Huntington Theatre Company
Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize, Ayad Akhtar’s explosive drama about a Pakistani-American lawyer trying desperately to distance himself from his Muslim roots was a shocking and timely triumph. Akhtar’s The Who & The What, another riveting drama about the contemporary Islamic experience in America, will be staged at the Huntington this spring.
- Carousel, Reagle Music Theatre
As beautiful as Carousel is, it’s a hard show to get right. Director and choreographer Rachel Bertone’s mounting of this Rodgers and Hammerstein gem could not have been more fulfilling. Grounded by glorious performances from Jennifer Ellis and Ciarán Sheehan, Bertone’s uncanny eye and inherent understanding of how musicals work is a very special thing. Look for her production of Barnum at Moonbox this spring.
- An Octoroon, Company One Theatre/ArtsEmerson
Terrifying, hilarious, and important, Summer L. Williams’ production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ An Octoroon was a supreme achievement. Confronting head on—and turning upside down—our inability to effectively talk about race, this was theater at its most vital.
- The Plough and the Stars, American Repertory Theater
Though style occasionally prevailed over substance in this exhilarating revival of Sean O’Casey’s 1926 play, this Sean Holmes-directed revival is one of the most well-conceived productions of this decade. An unflinching and unapologetic take on the Easter Rising in Dublin, this Abbey Theatre production was a privilege to sit through.
- Mala, ArtsEmerson
A superbly crafted memory play written and performed by local treasure Melinda Lopez about the journey of taking care of an aged and dying parent, Mala was an audacious and gallant delicacy. The simplicity of the production, along with Lopez’s meticulous writing and effortless candor, made this an unforgettably affecting experience.
- Show Boat, Fiddlehead Theatre Company
Fiddlehead’s maiden production at the Citi Shubert Theatre, its new home, could not possibly have been better. Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s landmark musical did not feel the least bit dated in this spectacular revival directed by Meg Fofonoff and Stacey Stephens. Delightful and dazzling, Show Boat proved that Fiddlehead is capable of big things.
- 1984, American Repertory Theater
A breathtaking marvel of theatricality, this remarkable adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece was like an electric jolt to the brain. As hard to watch as it was inspiring, 1984 was a kind of theatrical nirvana that comes along all too rarely.
- The Scottsboro Boys, SpeakEasy Stage
No other production came close to topping the emotional sucker punch that is Kander and Ebb’s The Scottsboro Boys. (This production even affected me more than Susan Stroman’s original.) Brilliantly staged and exquisitely performed, Paul Daigneault’s perfect production is a chilling example of why stories matter. See it for yourself through Jan 22.