Friday, December 27, 2019

The Best of 2019: The Best Plays I Saw

Representing 14 of Chicago’s fine theater companies, plus touring or special engagement shows, as well as a piece of Kabuki Theater in Tokyo, I saw 33 plays in 2019.

This does not include musicals, revues or operas, although a good number of plays did feature live music, just not in a storytelling way that connotes musical theater.

Some works were world premieres and others rather recent, a few can be considered classics and one was by Shakespeare.

A few plays featured just a single performer, while others had rather large casts.

Many were dramas, though I also saw a good number of comedies. 

More than two-thirds of the plays I saw merit recognition on this Best of 2019 post and EVERYTHING I saw was valuable and worthwhile, even the handful of works I gave @@@ (out of 5) or less on my Seth Saith rating scale.

So as much as a ranking of “The Best” per my tastes and whims, please see this list as a celebration of live theater--I also love musicals and posted this list yesterday—and particularly the remarkable work being done virtually every day on a stage near you, especially if, like me, you reside in the Chicago area.

The Best Plays I Saw in 2019
All were in the Chicago area. New/recent works are denoted with an *.

1. Every Brilliant Thing - Windy City Playhouse
written by Duncan Macmillan; directed by Jessica Fisch
(my review)

2. Wiesenthal - Touring production at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts
written and performed by Tom Dugan

3. Cambodian Rock Band* - Victory Gardens Theatre
written by Lauren Yee; directed by Marti Lyons

4. Equus - Aston Rep Theatre 
written by Peter Shaffer; directed by Derek Bertelsen
5. How I Learned to Drive - Raven Theatre
written by Paula Vogel; directed by Cody Estle
(my review)

6. Black Ballerina* - Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre and Piven Theatre
written by Stephen Fedo & Tim Rhoze; directed by Tim Rhoze
(my review)

7. The Undeniable Sound of Right Now* - Raven Theatre 
written by Laura Eason; directed by BJ Jones
(my review)

8. John Leguizamo - Latin History for Morons* - Touring production
written and performed by John Leguizamo
(my review)

9. Oslo* - TimeLine Theatre
written by J.T. Rogers; directed by Nick Bowling
(my review)

10. A Map of Myself* - Touring production at Stage 773
written and performed by Sara Abou Rashed; directed by Larry Smith
(my review)

11. Sweat* - Goodman Theatre 
written by Lynn Nottage; directed by Ron OJ Parson
(my review)

Honorable Mention
(in alphabetical order)

The Crowd You're In With - Aston Rep Theatre
written by Rebecca Gilman; directed by Derek Bertelsen
(my review)

Four Chords and a Gun* - Touring production
written by John Ross Bowie; directed by Richard Ouzounian
(my review)

Into the Breeches* - Northlight Theatre
written by George Brant; directed by Jessica Thebus
(my review)

Landladies* - Northlight Theatre
written by Sharyn Rothstein; directed by Jess McLeod
(my review)

Lottery Day* - Goodman Theatre
written by Ike Holter; directed by Lili-Anne Brown
(my review)

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom - Writers Theatre
written by August Wilson; directed by Ron OJ Parson
(my review)

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein* - Lookingglass Theatre
written and directed by David Catlin
(my review)

Mother of the Maid* - Northlight Theatre
written by Jane Anderson; directed by BJ Jones
(my review)

The Niceties* - Writers Theatre
written by Eleanor Burgess; directed by Marti Lyons
(my review)

Tiny Beautiful Things* - Victory Gardens Theatre
adapted by Nia Vardalos; directed by Vanessa Stalling
(my review)

True West - Steppenwolf Theatre
written by Sam Shepard; directed by Randall Arney
(my review)

The Winter's Tale - Goodman Theatre
written by William Shakespeare; directed by Robert Falls
(my review)

-- If re-posting list or highlighting selections, please attribute to: Seth Arkin on

1 comment:

Hemingway1955 said...

Glad I had a chance to see a couple of these. The recognition of "A Map of Myself" , written by a young Sara, gives me hope for the future when we've been moved offstage.