Best Plays of 2014

Yesterday I talked about my top nine books of 2014. Now, let’s talk about the top eight plays of 2014 in my opinion. I have a few plays to go before the end of the year but I’ll just have to report on those later. These are traditional plays, not circus and/or other variety shows.

In no particular order.
1. Since I Suppose by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Richard Jordan Productions
This play is loosely based on Measure for Measure. It had to be one of the most bizarre plays I’ve ever been to…. er participated in. It was just a smartphone and me with headphones wandering around the Loop and River North. I wandered in and out of buildings, even a bedroom!, while I experienced the play in a most private way. Probably the most thrilling thing I’ve done all year.
2, Merry Wives of Windsor by Chicago Shakespeare Theater
This was a fun production at CST. They chose to set it in a post-WWII Britain. There were little interludes with wondrous swing music that I thought were splendid. I even liked Falstaff…well, I enjoyed seeing him get his due.
3. Hamlet by Oak Park Theater Festival
This play managed to do something unique: it made me sympathize  with Hamlet. In other productions, he comes off as a misogynist git. But this one made me feel for him. It didn’t hurt that they set it in 1920s gangster times. And it was outdoors on a splendid summer night.
4. Midsummer Night’s Dream by Chicago Shakespeare Theater
This was another show outdoors on a wonderful summer night. It was a lot of fun. It made me appreciate the story more than other productions. The parts with the Athenians were most engaging; the fairies were okay. But they used people and umbrellas to create the forest that everyone gets lost in. So that was really creative. Also, umbrellas are always an A in my book.
5. All Our Tragic by the Hypocrites
This was the 12 hour production of 32 Greek tragedies. You can see it as one 12 hour chunk or 4 plays in 3 hour chunks. I chose the latter. I saw three out of the four shows of it. I am bummed about missing part 3. It’s playing again this summer and I will see it part three. I think they did a fantastic job of integrating all the stories in a fun and creative way. Also, the chorus playing old American folk music was a nice touch. I loved learning about all these plays and stories that I’d never heard of before.
6. White Snake by the Goodman Theater
This show was a tale of a Chinese fable about a white snake who becomes human and discovers love. It was extremely imaginative. There were puppets, paper rain, and a lot of magic in this show. Goodman created a beautiful world. And the play is about powerful woman fighting evil, conniving men.
7. The Boxer at the Athenaeum
This play was done as a silent movie. This entire play was done with subtitles with sepia colored light. It was an old-fashioned tale about a woman who pretends to be a man in order to coach her crush in his career making boxing match. Convoluted? Yes? That’s just how these things work. It was charming and fun. Also the sepia light was a stroke of genius.
8. Manual Cinema’s Studs Terkel piece
Manual Cinema is a puppet group unlike any you’ve seen. They combine shadow puppets with people, creating rich worlds. A child’s feet kick; eyelashes flicker. It’s magnificent. For the Studs Terkel festival in May, they put on a show that brought some of his oral histories to life. It was heart-wrenching and hilarious at times. I hope they consider putting the piece on again. It is well worth watching. (But then again, all of their shows are).
That’s all for now!

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