1. Love's Labor's Lost
Supposedly rarely produced because overly verbose, you'd never know it from the Public Lab's flawless staging of Shakespeare's four-on-four romantic jousting match. Nick Westrate's Berowne may stand as our favorite performance of the entire year.
2. Sons of the Prophet
Stephen Karam's Sons of the Prophet was the hit of the fall season, and with reason: it's well-made but intuitive and filled with first-rate acting. Great moments: the tickle fight in the hospital room between Joseph (Santino Fontana) and his brother (Chris Perfetti) that drifts into something very ambiguous, and the way Timothy (Charles Socarides) makes a subtle, circular motion with his foot to signal to Joseph, "I'm interested."
3. Nixon in China
The spectacular Met debut of John Adams' seminal 80s opera transformed recent historical figures into mythical characters grappling with the contrast between their private lives and public personae.
The action in this stunning one-man show seems set entirely in the mind of its lead character, a deeply disturbed and purely narcissistic Irishman played by Cillian Murphy; he delivered perhaps the year's most physical and flamboyant performance, leaping between emotional extremes and embodying several characters as though possessed by multiple personalities.
5. Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws
Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws, a never-produced one-act by Tennessee Williams at La MaMa, proved to be the tastiest treat of the season, with its starry cast of cult movie stars (Mink Stole), downtown theater royalty (Everett Quinton), and downtown It Boys (Joseph Keckler and Max Steele). The unknown Williams play itself proved surprisingly muscular and absurdist, a bold step in a new direction that Williams didn't take, and the cast was just ideal.
6. The Tempest
Target Margin Theater's production of Shakespeare's surreal final play at HERE in May was appropriately magical, conjuring a postmodern storm that playfully incorporated period costumes, contemporary details, strong color-, age- and gender-blind casting, electronic music and candle lighting. Amidst the spectacular design the text remained dominant, and the actors navigated it superbly.
7. The Tremendous Tremendous
The Mad Ones’ hilarious vaudevillian romp lived up to the promise of its title. Five tremendous actors portray five tremendous actors acting, watching each other act and brilliantly babbling backstage on the night of their last performance in the 1939 World’s Fair. One room, one act, one hour—a real-time tour-de-force.
8. The Tenant
Shoestring site-specific theater geniuses the Woodshed Collective returned in style after a two-year hiatus, turning the massive West-Park Presbyterian Church and Parish House into a Parisian neighborhood for this creepily funny and gripping choose-your-own-adventure staging of Roland Topor's 1964 novel (and Polanski's screen adaptation thereof).
9. The Normal Heart
If you'd become complacent about AIDS, you needed to have your heart broken by the Broadway debut of this scared, confused and vitriolic play from 1985 about gay activists during the disease's early days.
10. The Threepenny Opera
Stage auteur Robert Wilson's clowning, Pop-minimalist take on the Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill opera combined silent film makeup and movements with a slick, Dan Flavin-like set design and cabaret-like musical numbers. The production's anti-bank finale was especially apt in early October.