Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Best of 2015: The Plays of the Year (dramatically speaking)

Occasionally I sense, or simply imagine, a certain dubiousness over how many shows I highly rate on my Seth Saith @@@@@ scale.

While understanding that no critic can expect anything close to 100% congruency with any given reader--let alone all of them--and without apologizing for the great number of shows I substantially enjoy (across various idioms and genres, within and beyond theater), I believe there is at least one logical rationalization for my high percentage of @@@@ and above reviews:

I primarily go to shows I expect to like.

Unlike a paid professional who may get assigned to see anything and everything, I specifically select what I see--excepting works in my Broadway in Chicago and Goodman Theatre subscriptions.

In terms of rock concerts, the acts I see are predominantly repeats; several I've seen 5-10+ times, so I can pretty much count on the latest show being satisfying, or even superb. (See my picks for the Best Concerts of 2015.)

A lot of theater that I attend ad hoc is based upon the recommendations of professional critics, most notably Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune. And even shows within subscription series have usually passed some muster, whether having succeeded on Broadway or otherwise convincing esteemed Artistic Directors of their merits.

But for those who still see me as a softie, let me note of the 27 plays I saw in 2015, while I at least "liked" the vast majority, I bestowed less than sterling @@@1/2 ratings upon the 2013 Tony-winning play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (which I saw staged by Chicago's Goodman Theatre), one of the classics of the American theater canon, The Little Foxes, and seemingly the longest-running local production in 2015 (spanning three separate venues), Bad Jews

And while my ranking of the musicals I liked best in 2015 includes seven shows I felt merited @@@@@ and another 13 that got @@@@1/2, I gave only one play the former--the top choice below--and just seven more the latter.

So while I was again greatly enriched by an abundance of excellent dramatic and comedic theater, most featuring wonderful performances and well-worth others' attention, I can in fact be somewhat discriminating.

Or so I like to think.

And no, the top two selections being from the same theater just a mile from my home is in no way based on homerism.

Anyway, here are...

The Best Plays I Saw in 2015
All were in the Chicago area unless noted. New/recent works are denoted with an *.

1. Outside Mullingar* - Northlight Theatre (my review)
written by John Patrick Shanley; directed by BJ Jones

2. Funnyman* - Northlight Theatre (my review)
written by Bruce Graham; directed by BJ Jones

3. The Mecca Tales* - Chicago Dramatists (my review)
written by Rohina Malik; directed by Rachel Edwards Harvith

4. Assassination Theater* - Museum of Broadcast Communications (my review) written by Hillel Levin; directed by Kevin Christopher Fox

5. Skylight - Golden Theatre, New York 
written by David Hare; directed by Stephen Daldry

6. The Herd* - Steppenwolf Theatre (my review)
written by Rory Kinnear; directed by Frank Galati

7. Churchill* - The Greenhouse (my review)
written by Ronald Keaton; directed by Kurt Johns

8. The Royale* - American Theater Company (my review)
written by Marco Ramirez; directed by Jaime Casteneda

9. Good for Otto* - The Gift Theatre (my review)
written by David Rabe; directed by Michael Patrick Thornton

10. A Christmas Carol - Goodman Theatre (my review)
Adapted by Tom Creamer; directed by Henry Wishcamper

11. Disgraced* - Goodman Theatre (my review)
written by Ayad Akhtar; directed by Kimberly Senior

Honorable Mention

Beast on the Moon - Raven Theatre (my review)
written by Richard Kalinoski; directed by Michael Menendian

Never the Sinner - Victory Gardens Theatre (my review)
written by John Logan; directed by Gary Griffin

Marvin's Room - Shattered Globe at Theater Wit (my review)
written by Scott McPherson; directed by Sandy Shinner

Maya's Last Poem* - Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre (my review)
written & directed by Tim Rhoze

Two Trains Running - Goodman Theatre (my review) @@@@
written by August Wilson; directed by Chuck Smith

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