Sunday, December 13, 2009

My New York Theatre Experience: 2009

It's the time of year for looking back and making lists. I actually enjoy doing a bit of this, especially where the world of New York theatre is concerned--because there are always plenty of great memories to cherish as I think back on the last 12 months of my own personal New York Theatre Experience.

I've already shared with you the names of the 15 theatre artists and companies whom we've cited as's People of the Year--all of the work these folks contributed to the scene in 2009 ranks among the best of the best as far as I'm concerned.

And I've also told you about the 10 new plays that we'll be including in NYTE's next anthology, Plays and Playwrights 2010. Obviously, these dramas and comedies are to be counted among my top faves of the year as well.

But why should I stop at two lists? I've still got more stuff I want to remind everybody about--so here's my final year-end list, of what I found most worth celebrating in the year in theatre in 2009:

Here, in absolutely random order, are the other new American plays that really excited me this year:
  • Balaton by Ashlin Halfnight
  • The Good Negro by Tracey Scott Wilson
  • This by Melissa James Gibson
  • The Temperamentals by Jon Marans
  • The Savannah Disputation by Evan Smith
  • Behind the Bullseye by Kevin Doyle

In the not-exactly-a-play category, there are these two:

  • The Lily's Revenge by Taylor Mac
  • The Pig, The Farmer, and the Artist by David Chesky

The performances I will remember for a long time include:

  • Jane Fonda in 33 Variations
  • James Spader and David Alan Grier in Race
  • Mercedes Ruehl in The American Plan
  • Geoffrey Rush in Exit the King
  • Chris Harcum and Kyle Haggerty in The Hypochondriac

Behind-the-scenes, I feel attention must be paid to:

  • David Korins, for the set design of Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them
  • Scott Reynolds, for his direction of Simon Armitage's dramatization of Homer's Odyssey

It was a great year for revivals of American classics. For me, the best of these included:

  • Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Lincoln Center Theater (directed by Bartlett Sher)
  • Vieux Carre, Pearl Theatre Company (directed by Austin Pendleton)
  • It Pays to Advertise, Metropolitan Playhouse (directed by Michael Hardart)
  • Fifth of July, T. Schreiber Studio (directed by Peter Jensen)
  • Our Town (directed by David Cromer)

The indie theater company CollaborationTown had a fantastic year in 2009; if they hadn't already been named a "Person of the Year" back in 2006, they would have been on our list this year. They had two excellent, very different new shows: Let's Go and Children at Play.

Vital Theatre Company imported the show that probably ranks as the happiest surprise of my year: the delightful comedy Perfect Wedding, by British playwright Robin Hawdon.

And finally, the most fortuitous non-production event of the year, for my money, was the renaming of the La MaMa Annex as the Ellen Stewart Theatre. What a great tribute to her in the year she celebrated her 90th birthday!

So, there you have it. Martin's New York Theatre Experience for 2009. You can hear me talk about some of this with playwrights Kevin Doyle and Saviana Stanescu on our year-in-review podcast. (We also chat about the theatre scene abroad, beyond the borders of NYC.)

So, now I have to ask: what's on your list for 2009? Send in your "New York Theatre Experience" by posting a comment.

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