Looking back at the best shows from a year of theatre is always a little strange. It’s not like KCRW’s list of best albums that you can instantly download and enjoy. Theatre is ephemeral - you can’t stream it or hit rewind. So reflecting on a year’s productions is less a guide to what you should see, and more an evaluation of where we are as an audience - and maybe a hint of where we’re going.
“Come From Away”, the new show at the Ahmanson, is basically a feel-good musical about 9/11. If that sounds a little far-fetched, think of the advice to kids from Mr. Rogers: in the face of catastrophe, look to the helpers.
When you enter the Geffen Playhouse for “A Christmas Carol” it feels like you may have entered a victorian funeral home. The lights are dim, there’s a waft of fog blowing on stage and what appears to be a coffin surrounded by black floral arrangements. It’s spooky. It feels like you’re about to hear a ghost story. Which you are.
Watching Jose Rivera’s play “The Untranslatable Secrets of Nikki Corona” is a bit like flipping through the sketchbook of a talented artist who can’t figure out exactly how all those sketches turn into a big painting.
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins plays aren’t quite what they seem on the surface. Or maybe a better way to say that is - they are everything they seem to be ... and more. Take his play “Appropriate” or “Appropriate” that played at the Taper in 2015.(That was a couple years ago but stick with me - because he’s doing something very similar now).
It’s easy to see why Lynn Nottage’s play “Sweat” won a Pulitzer prize. “Sweat” chronicles what happens to a union factory town when the old way of doing things isn’t doing it anymore. It’s set mostly in a local dive bar. The kind of place you go after your shift to grab a beer. The kind of place you celebrate every birthday since - well, hell you can’t even remember it’s been so long.
The question of the classical soul is always looming in the air for the Getty Villa’s annual outdoor drama. Calling upon those classical Greek and Roman plays, one always wonders how academic, how true to form (and perhaps devoid of soul) will the work be? That question is particularly poignant when Anne Bogart and SITI Company are tackling the Greeks, as they are for the third time this year, with Euripides “Bacchae.”
It’s in roughly the third scene of Circle X’s world premiere of “Hole in the Sky” that the moon rises behind the actors. Not a prop moon or a piece of scenery - the actual moon…because we’re sitting on the edge of horse stable deep in the Valley - Lake View Terrace to be exact.
Yes, this is a play about new mothers but because child-rearing is inextricably linked to privilege and class it becomes about much, much more than that. To say this is play that could only be written by a women is like saying only a woman can give birth - both overly simplistic and more complicated than we can fully grasp.