Between health-related closures, dwindling audiences, casting challenges, and a couple of big changes in company leadership, there was almost as much drama off-stage as on in the North Bay theatre community in the past year.
There was an assumption by some that pandemic-weary audiences (and theatre companies) would seek relief in comedies and small-scale musicals and, to a certain extent, they did, but dramatic plays continued to be a welcome option for local audiences.
Here are my “Top Torn Tickets” for the best and/or most interesting dramas produced in the North Bay in 2022:
Clybourne Park – Raven Players – Bruce Norris’s Pulitzer Prize-winning continuation of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” got a solid mounting from this Healdsburg company.
A Doll’s House, Part 2 – Novato Theater Company – This production of Lucas Hnath’s sequel to Ibsen’s 138-year-old-drama packed a lot in its 85 intermission-less minutes.
The Glass Menagerie – Main Stage West – The now 75-year-old Tennessee Williams classic may be draped in the trappings of its time, but its look at the illusions we create to get through life and the pain and regret that comes with the shattering of those illusions still hit hard courtesy the work of four actors at the top of their game.
Master Class – Sonoma Arts Live – Libby Oberlin was first class as diva Maria Callas in this simply staged but very effective production.
Misery – Cinnabar Theater – You knew what you were getting when you took your seat at this stage adaptation based on the screenplay of the Stephen King novel. That it was still able to deliver a jolt or two despite the familiarity of the material is a credit to director Tim Kniffin and the cast.
One Flea Spare – Main Stage West – A show set during the Great Plague in a quarantined household might have been a little too on-the-nose for some, but its look at what sequestration can do to people (and what people can do to each other) was absolutely absorbing.
The River Bride – 6th Street Playhouse – Despite the occasional train whistle and ambient sounds of local automobile traffic, this production of an Amazonian-set fable managed to – through set, sound, and performance – transport you to a different world.
The Sound Inside – Marin Theatre Company – Theatre didn’t get any more unsettling than this look at the relationship between a college professor and a student. Challenging in both presentation and subject matter, it’s a rare play in which everything isn’t neatly tied up at the end.
Here’s hoping the shows go on in 2023.
This review originally appeared in an edited version in the North Bay Bohemian, Pacific Sun, and the Healdsburg Tribune.