‘Tis the time for critics of all ilks to release their “end of year” lists. For almost twenty years, this publication has presented a “Top Torn Tickets” list featuring the year’s best North Bay theatrical productions. Those years, however, had the advantage of having an entire calendar year’s worth of shows to consider. With the pandemic-necessitated shut-downs and closures initiated in mid-March, there were but a fraction of shows produced live in 2020 upon which to look back.
But look back I did, and I want to give the fine work of local theatre artists their due. Adhering to the belief that that it’s “quality, not quantity”, here – in alphabetical order – is my truncated list of the best and/or most interesting stage work done in the North Bay in the past year:
Enchanted April – Sonoma Arts Live – The North Bay is gifted with many fine theatrical designers, but it’s rare for a stage design to receive its own applause. Such was the case when the curtain opened on ACT II of this production to reveal Carl Jordan’s breathtaking scenic and lighting design for an Italian villa. Bravo!
Five Course Love – Lucky Penny Productions – Short, sweet and incredibly silly, this is the kind of show we are all going to desperately need when we’re past this current mess.
Ghosts of Bogotá – Alter Theater – Ghosts haunted a vacant San Rafael store front in this very interesting production that was both gut-busting and gut-wrenching.
Mary’s Wedding – Main Stage West – This incredibly effective dream-like piece was part memory play, part fantasy, and part Ken Burns PBS documentary-influenced World War I drama.
Ripcord – Cinnabar Theater – A terrific cast brough the funny to this look at a couple of mis-matched roommates in a Senior Center.
Silent Sky – Ross Valley Players – This well-mounted production of Lauren Gunderson’s look at America’s first female astronomers was a healthy reminder that there was a time in this country that the pursuit of truth through science was something to be respected.
The Wolves – Raven Players – Whenever this company goes “outside the box” (and converts their cavernous theatre into a black box), they do really interesting work. A fine, young ensemble brought the sting of accuracy to the conversations among the members of a girls’ soccer team.
With no “opening” date for theaters in sight, many local companies have turned to streaming while others just continue to hold their breath. Here’s to 2021 giving us all the chance to gather safely and breathe again.