2017 is almost a thing of the past, we've only got two weeks until it's the first day of 2018! And while I spend a lot of time on here tooting my own horn, I wanted to take a second to look back at my favorite theatrical performances from the past year. I saw so many shows! I didn't keep count, unfortunately, but it was a lot. From staged readings, to workshop productions, to world premieres, to classics, I saw some shows you guys. I love seeing theater, and while I didn't love every show, I wouldn't go back and undo seeing any of it… And I gladly sign up to see these five shows again… Because they were my FAVORITE shows of 2017!
(In no particular order)….
HOLLYWOOD, NEBRASKA by Kenneth Jones, directed by Scott Alan Evans, at the Wyoming Theater Festival
I caught the workshop production of HOLLYWOOD, NEBRASKA at the 2017 Wyoming Theater Festival, and it was lovely. It was honest and funny and sad and joyous in all the best ways. This was a play that you watch and after you just want to sit quietly in a comfortable chair near a fire and just digest it. It's specificity about mother-daughter relationships, and returning home, and how friendships morph from childhood to adulthood were all spot on. I'm basically sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting for this play to get a full production so I can jump back into this world all over again. It was also a treat to get to know Kenneth Jones a bit at the festival, it's great when playwrights are just as warm and wonderful as their plays, and Kenneth does not disappoint.
MERCURY by Steve Yockey, directed by Shannon Musgrave, at Salt Lake Acting Company
MERCURY by Steve Yockey ticked off so many of my boxes; it's funny, clever, scary, fast, and it even manages to wonder into the zone of being touching for a few brief moments. I caught this play opening weekend at Salt Lake Acting Company and liked it SO much that I brought my husband to closing weekend because I didn't want to not be able to talk to him about the play all the time. The set was to die for, and the script was surprising and refreshing. Catch this play, if ever you're given the chance!
THE MINEOLA TWINS by Paula Vogel, directed by Ariel Craft, at Cutting Ball Theater
I saw THE MINEOLA TWINS by Paula Vogel on one of my trips back to San Francisco this past Fall, and it reinforced how much I love both Paula Vogel and Ariel Craft. All the design elements were phenomenal, the cast totally blew me away, and the dissolve from the heightened moments to realism were so effortless I never felt confused or confounded by the switch. Elissa Beth Stebbins played both Myrna and Myra so well that I kept waiting for the twins to meet and have a scene together by the end of the play. Yes, she made me forget that she's not in fact TWO PEOPLE. Working with Elissa is now on my bucket list!
THE ICE FRONT by Eric Samuelson, directed by Jerry Rapier, at Plan-B Theatre
Right now in this country I often feel powerless. Weird, weird, weird things are happening every day, and I think it's common for us to feel like there's nothing we can do about it. THE ICE FRONT shows how artists can resist and it's all tucked neatly into a the enthralling history of Norway during WW-II. And not only was the script killer, but the cast, director, and designers brought it too. I hope this is a play that gets in a theater near you soon, it's a play that speaks to today in a brilliant way.
And then, my super-duper absolute FAVORITE show of 2017……
THE BOOK OF WILL by Lauren Gunderson, directed by Davis McCallum, at the Denver Center For The Performing Arts
I sobbed during Lauren Gunderson's THE BOOK OF WILL, and I have no doubt at all that very soon this will be in a theater near you, as Lauren's work is everywhere right now. This feels like a new Shakespeare in the most comforting sort of way. It's a play that speaks to the ephemeral quality of theater, of being in the room breathing with artists and seeing a performance that's unlike any that have happened in the past or will happen in the future, and of being in a show that you know one day must end. The set was gorgeous, the costumes were gorgeous, basically everything from the script to the acting to the lights to the directing for this play was gorgeous. There's also this sense of urgency and suspense, even though it's a history play and we all know how it has to end, which I think is a mark of a brilliant writer. I mean, Lauren Gunderson is blowing up out the box for a reason, guys.
So that's my list! It was hard to narrow it down to just the five, and I feel so fortunate that I got to experience all of the shows above as well as the dozens and dozens of others that I saw over the year.
Here's to even MORE theater in 2018!