There was a lot of remarkable theater this year in Boston, and with it a slew of performances that challenged me, haunted me, and charmed me. Here is my list of the 10 best performances in Boston this year. Bravo!
10. Peter Mac as Judy Garland at Club Café
When I closed my eyes, I swore I was listening to Judy Garland. In a performance of bewitching finesse and contagious passion, Mac is a sensation. With an oft-changing show that performs nearly every Saturday, it’s time to make Judy Garland part of your New Year’s resolution.
9. Nael Nacer, A Number at the New Repertory Theatre
In a performance of startling precision, Nacer played three different roles, all the victims of a cloning experiment gone wrong. His physical, verbal, and emotional transformation between the three roles was awe-inspiring.
8. Gideon Bautista, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them at Company One
There’s something about seeing a young actor give a performance of unfathomable depth that sticks with you. Bautista played Kenny, 16 going on 30, who had to man up before his time in order to take care of himself and his younger sister, Edith. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
7. Stephanie Recio, Dry Land at Company One
Her performance as Amy, a troubled, pregnant high schooler who takes her “problem” into her own hands, was as riveting as it was hard to watch. She dug deep for moments of suffocating despair and then had you laughing seconds later. This was what you call a tour de force.
6. Cloteal L. Horne, Saturday Night/Sunday Morning at the Lyric Stage
As the promiscuous firecracker Mabel, Horne’s performance was a revelation. To witness Horne’s transition from a thick-skinned, hilarious pain in the ass to a devastated, unexpected widow was a profound gift.
5. Marcia DeBonis, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at the Huntington Theatre Company
One of the best comedic performances I’ve ever seen onstage, anywhere. She infused irresistible wit and affection into Sonia, an unpredictably depressed woman-child living with her brother in her parents’ house in Bucks County, PA. Her scene as the Evil Queen from Snow White as played by Maggie Smith on the way to the Oscars had me laughing until I cried.
4. Alex Molina, Colossal at Company One
As a gay college football player whose in-game attempt to protect the teammate that he loved resulted in him being paralyzed for life, Molina gave a performance that was raw and devastating and perfect. Someone please revive A Streetcar Named Desire for him.
3. The Cast of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 at the American Repertory Theater
This committed group of miracle makers is as good as it gets: intoxicating, sexy, and tireless. To borrow from Cabaret, even the orchestra is beautiful. The show will open on Broadway next fall, and the whole cast deserves to transfer. (Unfortunately for the stellar Scott Stangland, he’s already been replaced by Josh Groban.)
2. The Cast of A Little Night Music at the Huntington Theatre Company
How rare it is that an entire company should be so perfect. Haydn Gwynne’s Send in the Clowns was heart-stopping; Lauren Molina nearly stole the show as Charlotte; Bobbie Steinbach’s Madame Armfeldt trumped that of even Angela Lansbury. Space prevents me from gushing about the whole cast, but all were impeccable.
1. Adrianne Krstansky, Come Back, Little Sheba at the Huntington Theatre Company
Her performance as Lola was ruthlessly heartbreaking and completely unforgettable. As a tired but devoted housewife married to a recovering alcoholic, Krstansky was a chilling and sorrowful wonder to behold as she tried to reconcile the hopeful young thing she once was with the shell of a woman she’s become.
Theater critic for TheaterMania & WBUR’s TheArtery | Theater Editor for DigBoston | film and music critic for EDGE Media | Boston Theater Critics Association.