Top Plays of 2016

What a year of theater! This year was a lot of Shakespeare due to Shakespeare 400. I should also point out that I have not included Aloft’s El Circo Cheapo in this list or in prior years for a simple reason. El Circo Cheapo is always amazing and was part of my life that it seemed natural to go as it is to go to work. So if and when El Circo Cheapo begins running again, you should go. But make sure that I still get tickets.

  1. An Heir Apparent
    1. This adaptation by David Ives was a treat. It’s a farce about terrible people groveling over inheritance but it was hilarious. I couldn’t stop laughing. Also, I have yet to see something that I didn’t love from David Ives.
  2. Satchmo at the Waldorf
    1. One of the best things I saw this year. It was a one man show about Louis Armstrong a few days before his death. It’s a beautiful meditation on race, aging, and music. I loved how Barry Shabaka Henley was able to play three different characters so well. It was astonishing how language use, posture and lighting can really change everything. A tour de force.
  3. Othello
    1. Chicago Shakespeare did a really lovely production of Othello set in the present day in a war zone. Very emotionally charged. Not sure if I liked it more or less than last year’s Backroom Shakespeare version. Honestly, I think both were equally amazing.
  4. Mark Morris’s Dido and Aeneas
    1. Dido and Aeneas was the first ballet I’d seen in years. This modern ballet was performed really well, telling the tragedy of Dido and Aeneas. It reminded me that I need to see more dance.
  5. I, Malvolio
    1. This was another incredible one man show. This was a visiting show from UK for the Shakespeare 400. Tim Crouch did a bang up job as the title character. It’s not often that you leave the theater feeling sorry for a villain.
  6. Tug of War
    1. While part 1 of Tug of War: Foreign Fire went on a bit, Part 2 Civil Strife was amazing. This six hour play combined Henry VI Part 2 and 3 and Richard III in an incredibly effective way. Wall O’ Blood. Also, it had an incredible surprise adaptation of Jack Kincaid’s character. Too apt. And now even more depressing.
  7. Universoul Circus
    1. This was our second year at the Universoul Circus, the only African American owned circus in the country. It’s a circus dance party and is one of the most fun things we did this year. It’s a combination of traditional circus with acrobats, flying trapeze, and animals but the performers are from all over the world. When I saw it the first time, the stillwalkers’ performance inspired me to learn stilt walking. Because they weren’t walking, they were dancing.
  8. undreamed shore
    1. undreamed shore was a unique theater experience by the same Australian group, one step at a time like this, that put together Since I Suppose in 2014. This time, it was a one person tour of Navy Pier with a smartphone that mapped the location with Shakespearean plays. I was instructed to lie under the ferris wheel or wander on the parking garage overlooking the skyline while listening to pertinent sections. It was magical.
  9. Then She Fell
    1. This play experience was a stroke of madness on our part. We spent a weekend in Philadelphia but did a day trip to Brooklyn to see Then She Fell. It was a site immersive play centering on Alice in Wonderland/Lewis Carroll. Actually, the best way to think of it is as a haunted house with a plot. Only 15 people can go through a time and you go through the rooms in different orders. You may even have a slightly different experience as anyone you go with. It was a magical exploration of unrequited love, age, mental illness, and time.
  10. The Magic Play
    1. This play was another one of the best plays of the year. It’s about trust and love between a magician and a diver. It’s vulnerable and sweet with incredible card magic. It really well integrated the magic with the plot of the play.  I have written in the past about my love for magic. The one thing was that we saw it on Election night and I was really hoping that I could say that I saw a wonderful play about two gay men the night Hillary got elected…but that didn’t quite go as planned.
  11. Charles III
    1. This play begins at the funeral of Elizabeth II where Charles III begins his reign. It’s Shakespearean in scope and was written in blank verse. The play is about a political crisis dealing with issues of honor, duty, meritocracy, and family. It was a hell of play to see after the election.
  12. In the Heights
    1. Lin-Manuel Miranda can do no wrong. I saw Porchlight’s In the Heights and it was amazing. There was controversy over the lead that is complicated but I still wanted to see it. What a play about neighborhood and gentrification! It had me crying in the middle, silently thanking my parents for teaching me Spanish.

That’s all for now!

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