Theatrical undertakings are a little like cats and dogs. Some are just a whole lot easier to love than others. Here are the shows I loved the most from the 87 I saw last year, my own personal top ten torn tickets of 2015.
Plus a few extras, extending the list to 15. Just for fun.
1. The Convert (Marin Theater Company) Danai Gurira’s magnificently intimate epic about racial and spiritual clashes in colonial Africa exceeded expectations by balancing humane humor with scathing observations about the relationship between religion and power. Brilliantly directed by Jasson Minadakis, with a gorgeously crafted, heartbreaking performance by Katherine Renee Turner, the story of an African convert to Christianity—and how her faith dropped her into a battle between her culture and country—The Convert not only achieved Bay Area theater perfection, it transcended it.
2. Yesterday Again (6th Street Playhouse/Lucky Penny Productions) Few North Bay shows this year generated the buzz produced by Dezi Gallegos’ ambitious exploration of how our choices in the present set the course for what happens in the future. Directed with power and grace by Sheri Lee Miller (between rounds of chemo), the script might have been guilty of overreaching, but with stunning insights and a fully committed cast (including a career-best performance by Craig Miller), this shaggy-dog story was easily one of the most rewarding and unforgettable productions of the year.
3. The Amen Corner (Marin AlterTheatre) James Baldwin’s 1954 play about personal choices and social politics within a small storefront church in Harlem was staged by AlterTheatre in a cramped corner of a San Rafael fitness center—and it worked. Directed by Jeanette Harrison, with a riveting lead performance by Cathleen Riddley as the strong-willed Sister Margaret, whose congregation is plotting to oust her, The Amen Corner, with rousing gospel songs to underscore the drama, was—like a good sermon—deeply moving, beautifully told and not easy to shake off.
Click ‘Here‘ to read the full list in the North Bay Bohemian
AND . . . were I allowed unlimited space in which to extend my list to, say, my fifteen topt ten torn tickets of 2015, I would add these additional worthy productions.
11. A Christmas Carol (6th Street Playhouse) — Under director Craig Miller, this beautifully designed, steampunk-inspired production of Dickens’ classic was eerie, outrageous and endlessly uplifting, with a remarkably strong performance by Charlie Siebert as Ebeneezer Scrooge.
12. My Manaña Comes (Marin Theatre Company) — Four “busboys” working at an upscale Big Apple eatery share travails and tips, and ultimately face off in a heartbreaking exploration of what it means to works so hard for so very little.
13. Twelfth Night (Shakespeare in the Cannery) — David Lear’s peppy staging of Shakespeare’s manic-depressive confection about the twists and pitfalls of love was smart, fast and full of fun.
14. Gruesome Playground Injuries (Lucky Penny Productions) — Two accident prone kids (Ben Stowe and Katie Kelley Stowe) meet in the nurse’s office of their school, and a strangely moving friendship begins, punctuated by punctures, burns, abrasions and other side-effects of life, love and making hard choices.
15. Little Women: The Musical (Spreckels Theatre Company) — Sweet as syrup and bitter as life, this clever, emotionally rich musical adaptation of the famous novel was gorgeously performed and beautifully staged by Thomas Chapman. A beautiful Christmas card to the power of family love and artistic determination, this was a lovely way to end the year, with laughter, tears, and pleasant tune or two.