Best of 2015: Theater

funhome

by Andrew Osborne

It’s Festivus once again, and now that we’re done with all the feats of strength and airing of grievances, it’s time for the making of lists, starting with the best live theater I saw in 2015!

1. FUN HOME (Circle in the Square Theatre, New York City)

Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori’s adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel featured a uniformly strong cast, including the luminous Sydney Lucas (as the youngest of the story’s three Bechdel stand-ins, depicting the childhood, college years, and adult life of a woman struggling to embrace her sexuality and artistic ambitions).  But Michael Cerveris was and remains the aching soul of the show as Bechdel’s closeted, domineering father, Bruce.  And while there are plenty of laugh-out-load moments in the musical, the inability of the father and daughter to communicate honestly is ultimately heartbreaking, especially given our foreknowledge of Bruce’s eventual death (a probable suicide which haunts the adult Alison as she revisits her life, wondering what — if anything — she could have done to prevent it).

2. KING LEAR (Shakespeare on the Common, Boston)

lear

I thought I knew the tale of crazy ol’ King Lear pretty well after quick skim-throughs in various English classes over the years.  But the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s riveting, fast-paced Boston Common production brought all the fascinating  Game of Thrones-ian backstabbing (and eye-plucking) to fresh, fascinating life thanks to strong performances and a smart production design which maximized the dramatic effect of the show’s outdoor setting.

3. A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (The Huntington Theatre, Boston)

When it comes to musical theater, I generally prefer catchy melodies to long stretches of Sondheim-style sing-talking.  Yet it was hard to resist the Huntington’s exquisite production, especially when the tale of star-crossed lovers moved to a dreamy forest estate in the second act (where, in context, Haydn Gwynne’s heartfelt performance transformed “Send in the Clowns” from a hoary old chestnut back to full potency as an emotional showstopper of unrequited passion).

DINA MARTINA (The Crown & Anchor, Provincetown)

dinamartina

The batty, avant-drag performer Dina Martina is larger-than-life in every sense, and while there’s nothing quite like the shock and awe experience of seeing her multimedia live show for the very first time, she does her level best to keep topping herself year after year with ever more unnerving videos, mangled melodies, and ill-fitting outfits.

5. SHIT-FACED SHAKESPEARE (Oberon, Cambridge)

shfasha

Performing iambic pentameter is a challenge even when you’re stone cold sober, but the fun of this show is seeing how many drinks it takes for trained Shakespearean performers to completely lose their shit while their non-inebriated castmates forge gamely on.  (And bonus points for any performance featuring the lovely and talented Liz Mikey!)

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