From the first show of the year, Trap Door’s “HamletMachine” to the final opening of the year, last night’s “The Addams Family,” 2011 was a banner year for theatre in Chicago. 250+ theatre companies produced over 400+ shows. Big blockbuster touring epics like Les Miserables to no-frills, all-poignant productions at ShawChicago entertained the Chicagoland masses. Storefront theatres verses the established theatres wowed the city with innovation and collaboration. Actors, writers, directors, designers showcased their best to intrigue and amuse audiences. And it worked! Out of the 247 shows I saw in 2011, there was less than a handful that didn’t captivate me with some imaginative element. But the following is the list of the ones that blew me away…
Written by Nicola Behrman, David Kersnar, Abbie Phillips, Heidi Stillman and Andrew White, Directed by David Kersnar
This world premiere made me laugh, cringe and cry. The spellbinding ensemble was magically uplifting in this Holocaust survivor’s tale.
Another world premiere served up fifty years of meals and relationships. LeFranc penned a meaty story about family. With prime choices casted, Bullard flame-broiled it to perfection.
Adapted by Christopher M. Walsh (no relation), Directed by Paul S. Holmquist
The world premiere was a Walsh, Holmquist, Hainsworth masterpiece. Every word was utilitarian in the tight dialogue. The action was paced like a well synchronized dance. In a role he was born to play, Chris Hainsworth’s performance captivated.
Lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, Libretto by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, Directed by Charles Newell, Music direction by Doug Peck
Newell skillfully stripped the classic down to the basics and whitewashed it. Although the entire talented cast added voice to the poignant melody, an unforgettable Bethany Thomas dominated with "My Man's Gone Now.”
Dramatization by David Eldridge, Based on the Dogme film and play by Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov, and Bo hr. Hansen, Directed by Jonathan Berry
This Midwest premiere of family drama was staged and acted to perfection. The angst was heart-gripping as alliances and characters shifted in surprising and organic-like revelations.
Composed by Gaetano Donizatti, Directed by Catherine Malfitano, Conducted by Massimo Zanetti
Memorable emotional powerhouse! Every level of passion was brilliantly actualized under the baton of Conductor Massimo Zanetti, the direction of Catherine Malfitano and sung to perfection by Suzanna Phillips.
Written by Jessica Dickey, Directed by PJ Paparelli
This disturbing and inspirational play was mesmerizing. Paparelli masterfully directs an entire town reacting to a tragic shooting. The community is played by one person. Sadieh Rifai was phenomenal!
Adapted by Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson, Directed by Charles Newell
O’Hare and Peterson scripted a compelling one-man narration. Under the skillful direction of Newell, Timothy Edward Kane translated the myth to man. Kane was superb!
Written by Timothy Findley, Directed by Barbara Gaines
The story intrigues with a behind-the-curtain-below-the-wig innovation. This show was a personally profound theatrical experience for me as a writer and a woman. ELIZABETH REX is a superpower!
created by Australian company One Step At A Time Like This
The extraordinary experience was all about putting together clues to move to the next step. The ongoing revelation was part of the phenomena. It was individualized and deeply profound. En Routewas the most simplistic and unique art I’ve ever experienced!
Honorable Mentions: The Caretaker (Writers Theatre), The Doyle & Debbie Show (Royal George Theatre), The Homosexuals (About Face Theatre) The Ugly One (SideShow Theatre), and Woyzeck (Oracle Theatre).
Choosing a top ten list was a difficult task. Chicago enjoys the burden of too many multi-talented and courageous theatre companies. We are lucky that way! I look forward to 2012 challenging me even more with rivaling entertainment.
Filed under: About Face Theatre, American Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Court Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Sideshow Theatre, Steep Theatre Company, The Oracle Theatre, Writers' Theatre
Tags: 2011 Chicago Theatre Top Ten, About Face Theatre, American Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Court Theatre, Katy Walsh, Lifeline Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Oracle Theatre, Sideshow Theatre, Steep Theatre, The Fourth Walsh's Top Ten for 2011, Writers' Theatre