I can always tell whether a theater year has been good or not so good when I sit down to hammer out my Top 10 list. If I can summon five or more shows simply from memory, it’s a good year. This year’s entire list came almost entirely from memory (which is a feat in itself as the old noggin’ ain’t what it used to be), so it was a good year indeed.
Here’s the countdown leading to my No. 1 pick of the year.
10. Anna Bella Eema, Crowded Fire Theatre Company — Three fantastic actresses, Cassie Beck, Danielle Levin and Julie Kurtz, brought Lisa D’Amour’s tone poem of a play to thrilling life.
9. First Person Shooter, SF Playhouse and Playground — What a good year for SF Playhouse. This original play by local writer Aaron Loeb brought some powerhouse drama to its examination of violent video games and school violence.
8. Bulrusher, Shotgun Players — Berkeley’s own Eisa Davis’ eloquent play, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for drama, turned the Northern California dialect of Boontling into poetic drama as it told the story of an outcast young woman finding her place in the world.
7. Avenue Q, Best of Broadway/SHN — Hilarious and irreverent, this puppet-filled musical by Jeff Marx, Robert Lopez and Jeff Whitty made you believe in friendship, life after college and the joys of puppet sex.
6. Jesus Hopped the `A’ Train, SF Playhouse — It took a while for Stephen Adly Guirgis’ intense drama to make it to the Bay Area, but the wait was worth it, if only for Berkeley resident Carl Lumbly in the central role of a murderer who may have seen the error of his ways. And note: This is the second SF Playhouse show on the list.
5. Emma, TheatreWorks _ Paul Gordon’s sumptuous, funny and, of course, romantic adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel came marvelously to life as a musical, with a star-making performance by Pleasanton native Lianne Marie Dobbs.
4. Argonautika, Berkeley Repertory Theatre _ Mary Zimmerman’s athletic retelling of the Jason and the Argonauts myth fused beauty and muscle and impeccable storytelling into a grand evening of theater.
3. Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People, Word for Word — Actually, the second half of Strangers We Know, this stage adaptation of Lorrie Moore’s short story was brilliantly directed by Joel Mullenix and performed by Patricia Silver and Sheila Balter.
2. Man and Superman, California Shakespeare Theater _ This unbelievably vivid version of George Bernard Shaw’s massive existentialist comedy benefited from superior direction by Jonathan Moscone and an impeccable cast headed by Elijah Alexander and Susannah Livingston.
1. The Crowd You’re in With, Magic Theatre _ The team of playwright Rebecca Gilman and director Amy Glazer fused into brilliance with this slice-of-life meditation on why we make the choices we make in our lives. Local luminaries Lorri Holt and Charles Shaw Robinson brought incredible humor and tenderness to their roles, and T. Edward Webster in the lead managed to make ambivalence compelling.
Now it’s your turn. Please post your favorite theater moments of 2007 — no geographical limitations, just good theater.
“The Pillowman” at Berkeley Rep is in my all-time top ten. (Full disclosure: I work at Berkeley Rep.) Favorite theatre moments, though? I’ll go ahead and agree with the East Bay Express that the Impact Theatre burlesque girls were the show-stealers of 2007. (Yeah, I work there too.)
Oh, and not that it would have made it anywhere near my top ten, but I’m pretty surprised that “Legally Blonde” didn’t make yours!
“The Pillowman” knocked my socks off (and I don’t work at BRT!). And Bill Irwin in “Virginia Woolf” and “Jesus Hopped the A Train” at SF Playhouse (where I *do* work!) and “Avenue Q”. And props to ACT for doing all the shows I should have seen by now but haven’t (The Circle, Hedda Gabbler, The Imaginary Invalid, The Rainmaker, Sweeney Todd …). My 2008 resolution: see even more shows (and lose more socks, I hope!).
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I would say my top theater moment of 2007 were Hurlyburly and Camino Real both at the actors theater. Margo Hall in Fe in the desert. Sweeny Todd at ACT. Legally Blonde best of broadway. Man and Superman at Calshakes