Monday, December 19, 2016

Best Theater of 2016!

The Royale (Dawn Shaefer)
It’s time for Crazy 2016 to be over…. That means it’s time for the annual attempt to bring to mind the best experiences of the year. As usual, there are so many aspects of good work to cover!

Local Writing:
First up, I want to acknowledge the incredible amount of Local Writing that exploded onto our stages this year! Seriously great work from talented writers! Two favorites of 2016 were Do It For Umma by Seayoung Yim, mounted at Annex and Theatre Off Jackson, and A Hand of Talons by Maggie Lee, mounted by Pork Filled Productions. A favorite adaptation was Laura Ferri’s A Tale for the Time Being at Book-It Repertory Theatre.

Exciting writing also included: Can’t Talk Right Now by Scotto Moore, Chorestia by Beth Raas-Bergquist, Puny Humans by Bret Fetzer and Keiko Green, Bernie’s Apt. by Rose Cano, Terra Incognita by Benjamin Benne, Trump the King by Nick Edwards, The Lost Girls by Courtney Meaker, From Kings to Controllers by Stacy Flood, Nick Stokes’ Duels, and Roz and Ray by Karen Hartman. Sara Porkalob created two new iterations of her solo piece about her amazing grandmother and will bring another one to Café Nordo in January (Madame Dragon’s 60th Birthday Bash).

Two Companies’ Outstanding Work:
I also want to acknowledge two companies who have done some of the best work of their history in 2016: ArtsWest and Ghost Light Theatricals.

ArtsWest, under the leadership of Mathew Wright, has increased exponentially in their innovation and execution of both musicals and classic plays. One of the best plays of 2016 was his direction of Death of a Salesman. Ghosts was also excellent, as was their top-notch musical production of Violet. They are becoming a must-see destination.

Ghost Light Theatricals has also upped their game in a big way. They mounted two of the new locally written plays (Chorestia and From Kings to Controllers) and an effective production of King Kirby. They’ve had a great year!

Best Plays:
Sometimes you see a play that surpasses everything else and you know you’ve seen something to remember for years. Not every year has one of those. 2016 had The Royale, at ACT Theatre. The writing, the directing, the technical execution and the terrific acting combined for a stellar, memorable stage moment and is – hands down – the best thing I saw this year!

Other best productions I loved included Sound Theatre Company’s The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, 9 Circles at Strawberry Theatre Workshop, The Pride at Theatre22, Sorry by Thalia’s Umbrella, Mrs. Warren’s Profession by Seattle Shakespeare Company, A Raisin in the Sun by Seattle Repertory Theatre, and Vietgone, also at Seattle Rep. Also, as mentioned, Death of a Salesman at ArtsWest.

Some “honorable mentions,” if you will, included solid productions of Motherfucker with the Hat by Washington Ensemble Theatre/Hansberry Project, The Realization of Emily Linder and Silent Sky at Taproot Theatre, In Arabia, We’d All Be Kings, Theater Schmeater, Annapurna, Theatre22, Brooklyn Bridge, Seattle Children’s Theatre, The Winter’s Tale, Seattle Shakespeare Co., Wedding Band, Intiman Theatre, Mechanics of Love, SiS Productions, and Dangerous Liaisons, ACT Theatre.

Best Musicals:
The best musical of 2016 was 5th Avenue Theatre’s wonderful How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. The cast was amazing, it was colorful and fun, and is probably my favorite effort by director Bill Berry.

Other solid efforts, besides the already mentioned Violet at ArtsWest, included Parade, Sound Theatre Co., Billy Elliot and Singing in the Rain, Village Theatre, Murder Ballad, Sidecountry Theatre, 9 to 5, Seattle Musical Theatre, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, 5th Avenue, and The Toxic Avenger, STAGEright.

Favorite Play Performances:
Out of all this theater, some moments and performers bubbled up with some amazing work in various ways. Memorable leads include Conner Neddersen’s riveting performance in 9 Circles, an amazing playing against “type” from David Pichette in Salesman, Trevor Marston’s performance in The Pride, Alexandra Tavares’s turns in both Book-It’s The Brothers K (Parts 1 & 2) and Medea at Seattle Shakespeare Co., Sara Porkalob in Café Nordo’s tasty To Savor Tomorrow, Laura Kenny as Emily Linder, and Dedra Woods in Wedding Band. Other performances that deserve notice include Suzanne Bouchard in Ghosts, Alex Silva in Treasure Island and Mi Kang in A Tale for the Time Being at Book-It, and Keven Bordi as a way-fun Trump in Trump the King.

Supporting characters:
Sometimes it is the smaller roles that call out and energize a play. Two of my absolute favorite non-lead players were Shermona Mitchell in Judas Iscariot and Molli Corcoran in Joyful Noise at Taproot. Other memorable favorites included Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako and Denise Burse in Raisin, Erwin Galan in Iscariot, Moises Castro in Motherfucker, and Doug Fahl in The Pride.

Sometimes everyone works so well together, and the play is so even-handed that you need to recognize all of the players on stage. The best ensembles this year were the casts of Vietgone and Sorry. Other solid ensemble work included the casts of Bernie’s Apt., King Kirby, A Tale for the Time Being, Wedding Band, and Umma. Even though there were clear leads in How to Succeed, I think the ensemble there was really top notch!

Favorite Musical Performances:
I have to say: Jessica Skeritt (Stokinger) had a heckuva year! She clowned her high heels off in both How to Succeed and Singin in the Rain and we all loved her for it! It is hard to imagine anyone doing better in either of those roles.

Eric Ankrim knocked it out of the park in How to Succeed (along with a great ensemble that included a hysterical Adam Standley). Matthew Kacergis and Diana Huey were Disney-licious in The Little Mermaid. Brenna Wagner showed her stuff in Violet. Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako performed beautifully in My Heart is the Drum at Village, though the musical had some large holes. Similarly, Kate Morgan Chadwick sang her guts out for Bad Apples at ACT Theatre, though that show was controversial and in my opinion should not be a musical. Justin Gregory Lopez introduced himself with a bang to Seattle in Paint Your Wagon at the 5th. Don Darryl Rivera came home to reprise his role in Man of La Mancha at the 5th.

Other memorable performances included John David Scott, Mallory King and Gabriel Corey in Singin’ in the Rain, all the young Billys and Michaels and Mari Nelson in Billy Elliot, Jessi Little in Avenger, Richard Gray in Assassins (co-pro’d by ACT and the 5th), and Shaunyce Omar in Drum.

I may have left out some of your favorites and welcome your comments on mine. I continue to love and appreciate all the talent on all the stages in our town and look forward to what 2017 will bring.

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