nytheatre mike’s Favorites of 2007

My turn to weigh in on my favorite shows of 2007. I saw a lot of them – more so than I ever have in one year, I think – and the good news is that most of them were good. (I frequently tell people that I’ve finally learned what the dirty little secret of New York theater is: most of it is really good.)

This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive or representitive list, however – there were a good many shows I missed (like, say, Frost/Nixon, August: Osage County, Young Frankenstein, and Men of Steel, just to name the first four that popped into my head). No, this list is purely subjective and is meant to highlight the shows that I, personally, got the most out of – the ones I responded to most viscerally and that stayed with me the longest after the proverbial curtain came down.

Also, I saw so many good shows this year that I’ve decided to cite my favorite 15 instead of the more traditional 10. There was no way I could do fewer than 15. It just wouldn’t be right. (Incidentally: shows with highlighted titles link back to my original nytheatre.com reviews – if I reviewed them, that is.)

Okay, enough talking – on to the main event! Without any further ado, my favorite 15 shows of 2007 (in alphabetical order):

  • 110 in the Shade (Roundabout Theatre Company): This glorious Broadway revival of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s musical adaptation of The Rainmaker featured stellar direction by Lonny Price and a knockout star performance by Audra McDonald. This was tug-at-the-heartstrings type stuff that Broadway does better than anyone else.
  • All the Wrong Reasons (New York Theatre Workshop): Former “prompter monkey” John Fugelsang cast off the chains of his television persona and reinvented himself as a solo performer to be reckoned with in this riotous and inspirational show about coming to terms with his unusual Catholic upbringing.
  • Blackbird (Manhattan Theatre Club): By far, the most haunting and spellbinding theatrical experience I had all year. Jeff Daniels and Allison Pill delivered tour-de-force performances as former lovers trying to face the fallout of their forbidden romance in David Harrower’s intense and disturbing love story.
  • Every Play Ever Written (The Brick Theater’s Pretentious Festival): Actor-writer-director Robert Honeywell continued to prove what an ingenious triple threat he is with this deliriously daffy and razor sharp meta-comedy about a theater history lecture gone terribly, horribly wrong. Featuring hilarious, top-notch performances from Brick regulars Moira Stone, Audrey Crabtree, Lynn Berg, and Honeywell himself.
  • Invincible Summer (The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival): The solo show of the year, hands down. Author and performer Mike Daisey brought together such seemingly disparate threads as 9/11, his own life, and the history of the MTA in a dazzling display that beat the late Spalding Gray at his own game.
  • Macbeth: A Walking Shadow (Manhattan Theatre Source): Andrew Frank and Doug Silver’s smart but audacious adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy fractured the narrative in a cogent way that made this familiar tale new again. Featuring a pair of outstanding lead performances by Ato Essandoh and Celia Schaefer as the title character and his scheming wife, respectively.
  • Macbeth Without Words (Piper McKenzie Productions at The Brick Theater’s Pretentious Festival): Director Jeff Lewonczyk ingeniously re-imagined the Scottish play as a silent movie and came up with one of the best and most memorable Shakespearean productions I’ve ever seen – all with nary a word spoken. The fabulous ensemble cast was led by Brick regulars Fred Backus, Hope Cartelli, Bryan Enk, and the fierce Stacia French.
  • Nihils (The Brick Theater’s Pretentious Festival): Trav S.D., the man who was seemingly everywhere this year, gave audiences the funniest show of the year – a one-man demolition of beat poetry, performance art, avant-garde elitism, and all things pretentious. Featuring a brilliantly funny performance by the author himself as the title character.
  • Oresteia (Blue Coyote Theater Group): David Johnston’s fantastic adaptation of Aeschylus’ classic (and bloody) tale brought Greek tragedy into the modern age with a deft mix of both old and new language. Director Stephen Speights and the rest of the Blue Coyotes gave Johnston’s script the royal treatment on every front.
  • The Chronological Secrets of Tim (Impetuous Theater Group): The quarterlife crisis got the Kevin Smith treatment in Janet Zarecor’s brash, coarse, and completely riotous comedy about a slacker who decides to end it all on his 30th birthday. Full of surprising depth and warmth, and some of the rudest, crudest laughs in all of New York this year.
  • The Death of Griffin Hunter (Inverse Theater): Inverse’s revival of Kirk Wood Bromley’s epic 1998 political thriller secured the author’s position as one of indie theater’s biggest thinkers and most nimble linguists. True to form, Inverse regulars Al Benditt, Timothy McCown Reynolds, Bob Laine, and Catherine McNelis all delivered outstanding performances.
  • The Seafarer (Booth Theatre): Redemption and the supernatural collided in Conor McPherson’s campfire-like tale of four Irish drunks visited by the Devil on Christmas Eve. David Morse and Ciaran Hinds led one of the best ensembles Broadway saw all year long.
  • Till the Break of Dawn (Culture Project at the Henry Street Settlement): One of the year’s most overtly political works also had one of the biggest hearts. Danny Hoch’s ambitious and entertaining play about a grassroots group of hip-hop activists who get a rude awakening during a visit to Cuba made politics and social relevancy cool again.
  • Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen (Women’s Project): The year’s biggest and best surprise came in the form of Kathryn Walat’s exuberant comedy about a popular high school bombshell’s quest for respect and validation among the school mathletes. A crowd-pleaser forged from the same underdog pedigree as Rocky and Hoosiers.
  • Wickets (HERE Arts Center’s Culturemart): Clove Galilee and Jenny Rogers re-set Fefu and Her Friends aboard a jet airliner and made it fly. Armed with a built-to-scale plane cabin set and one of the hardest working ensembles of 2007, this 4-performance-only workshop was one of the year’s most unique and enjoyable experiences.

The list wouldn’t be complete without a few honorable mentions. Here are 16 more that rocked my world in one way or another:

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave you with that. My thanks to all the wonderful artists on both of these lists – and all the other ones I saw this year – for making 2007 one of my favorite and most memorable years of theatergoing in recent memory. Happy New Year, everyone – I can’t wait to see what you’ve all got in store for 2008!


One Response to nytheatre mike’s Favorites of 2007

  1. Zack Calhoon says:

    Yeah, “Suburban Peephow”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks, man.

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