The productions to play Boston this past year have been intriguingly varied. Despite a slew of talked-about world premieres, though, it was the revivals and regional premieres that were the most affecting.
Here’s my list of the 10 best:
10. SATURDAY NIGHT/SUNDAY MORNING, THE LYRIC STAGE COMPANY OF BOSTON
Katori Hall’s play is not perfect, but Dawn M. Simmons’ lively and affecting production (with a tremendous cast) rendered most of the flaws forgivable. Hall’s play sticks to your ribs, with an ensemble cast that had me on my feet.
9. DRY LAND, COMPANY ONE
The stakes were extra high this October when Ruby Rae Spiegel’s heartbreaking play about a pregnant teen out of options opened amidst the Planned Parenthood hearings, and the results were hair-raising. The small cast of young actors led by Stephanie Recio and Eva Hughes gave profoundly natural, unapologetic performances.
8. APPROPRIATE, THE SPEAKEASY STAGE COMPANY
This hearty family drama by red-hot playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins was a nearly perfect evening of theater. Under the masterful direction of M. Bevin O’Gara, appropriate was as chilling and provocative as it was witty and hysterical. A top-shelf cast headed by Melinda Lopez helped make this one to remember.
7. VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE, THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY
Christopher Durang’s Tony-winning comedy served as not only a beacon of light and hope during the heinous and oppressive winter, but also as a lovely tribute to the late Nicholas Martin, the former Huntington artistic director who also earned a Tony nomination for directing Vanya on Broadway. The cast was delightful, and it’s the only show in Boston that I saw more than once.
6. COME BACK, LITTLE SHEBA, THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY
David Cromer blew the dust off of this neglected William Inge classic as only he can, and the results were devastating. In a painstakingly realistic production, the aching sorrow of a married couple hanging on by a thread was gruesomely realized, and the results were visceral and unforgettable.
5. EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM, COMPANY ONE
An irresistibly charming play by A. Rey Pamatmat about those awkward years between childhood and adulthood that boasted a trio of knockout performances by Maria Jan Carreon, Gideon Bautista, and Eddie Shields. Director Shawn LaCount’s production was simple but hopelessly absorbing, particularly in its manifestations of the loneliness, isolation, and confusion in three young kids doing the best they can.
4. MY FAIR LADY, THE LYRIC STAGE COMPANY OF BOSTON
Scott Edmiston’s scaled down reimagining of Lerner and Loewe’s golden-age chestnut was stunning, heaven-sent proof that less can be way, way more. Playing like an airtight chamber musical, the streamlining allowed for a beautiful character study and for the uproarious, nimble book to glisten. As Eliza Doolittle, Jennifer Ellis was incandescent.
3. FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS (PARTS 1, 2 & 3), THE AMERICAN REPERTORY THEATER
This Civil War drama by Pulitzer Prize-winner Suzan-Lori Parks was a distinguished, unmissable masterpiece. A gripping, epic consideration of identity and freedom, director Jo Bonney’s production boasted a towering performance from Benton Greene and a sublime ensemble cast.
2. A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY
With Huntington artistic director Peter DuBois at the helm, this revival of Sondheim’s 1973 masterwork got everything right. DuBois managed to find the perfect balance between the show’s aching nostalgia and the blissful hilarity of Sondheim’s lyrics and Hugh Wheeler’s book. Fortunately, more Sondheim is on the horizon at the Huntington.
1. NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812, THE AMERICAN REPERTORY THEATER
A divine experience that left me completely intoxicated. Dave Malloy’s score is easily one of the best written for the stage in at least a decade, and Rachel Chavkin’s stunning, immersive staging is one for the books. Opening on Broadway next fall, Comet is proof that style and substance can cohabit beautifully.