David Names his Top Ten New York Productions of 2013
Twelfth Night/Richard III
Shakespeare’s Globe at the Belasco Theatre
Mark Rylance tackled a pair of diverse roles in repertory at the Belasco Theater after a smash hit run at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. In keeping with Elizabethan tradition, all the female roles are played by men, and Rylance makes a convincingly icy Olivia who melts into a giddy lovestruck gal in Twelfth Night and a tyrannical usurper with an evil sense of humor in Richard III. In both roles, Rylance creates the illusion that these immortal lines are being spoken for the first time, a feat worth the price of two admissions.
Here Lies Love
Pop, rock, disco, politics, and stunning theatrical imagination combine in this innovative bracingly original event-one hesitates to call it something as ordinary as a show-which stretches the musical genre in form and content. Conceived by David Bryne of Talking Heads fame and employing a richly evocative score by Byrne, Fatboy Slim, Tom Gandey, and J Pardo, Love tells the story of Imelda Marcos’s relentless rise to power as First Lady of the Philippines. The audience mixed and mingled with the actors, becoming part of the story.
We’ve had many musicals about gay men finding their identities, but this moving and insightful tuner puts the spotlight on a lesbian’s coming-out story. The score features warm, sweet music by Jeanine Tesori and clever, character-defining lyrics by Lisa Kron. Michael Ceveris, Judy Kuhn, Beth Malone, Alexandra Socha, and Sydney Lucas give powerful performances in one of the best musicals on or Off-Broadway in recent years.
Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812
An electro-pop musical based on a section of War and Peace? Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Dave Malloy’s eclectic score strikingly tells the 19th-century story in 21st-century terms. The action, staged with dexterity by Rachel Chavkin, unfolds all around you in a dinner-theater setting. Passion, Napoleonic battles, and vodka shots, what more could you want?
Based on Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book, this hit from London offers a nasty, twisted, and totally joyful view of youngsters and the adjustments they face on the path to adulthood. Bertie Carvel in drag as the hideous Miss Trunchbull nearly stole the show. Resembling the living gargoyle from a famous episode of Jonny Quest, Carvel created a grotesque monster who still retains a touch of femininity. It’s a brilliantly funny performance in a brilliant family musical that doesn’t talk down to kids.
The Glass Menagerie
This beloved Tennessee Williams classic has been produced so many times, it’s hard to imagine anyone breathing new life into it. But director John Tiffany has stripped the play of its externals and delivered it to us, fresh, alive, and powerful. Cherry Jones, Zachary Quinto, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Brian J. Smith offer career-defining performances.
Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play
In this bizarre, brilliant play, playwright Anne Washburn shows that by telling and retelling the same stories-in this case, episodes of The Simpsons in a post-apocalyptic future-art in general and theater in particular rejuvenates the human spirit. That’s a bit weighty and belies the seemingly trivial nature of much of the action. Yet, thanks to Steve Cosson’s simultaneously dark and hilarious staging and the unself-conscious performances of a tight ensemble, it somehow works.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
Walter Kerr Theatre
The dazzling Jefferson Mays playing eight murder victims is not the only highlight of this witty musical derived from the novel that also inspired the classic film comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets. There’s also the dashing and charismatic Bryce Pinkham, the gorgeous and razor-sharp Lisa O’Hare, the sweet and charming Lauren Worsham, the delightfully droll Jane Carr, a hardworking and fun-loving six-person ensemble, plus the cleverest staging and the most enjoyable score in quite some time.
The Night Alive
Donmar Warehouse at Atlantic Theater Company
Many of his previous plays have supernatural elements, but there are no ghosts, vampires, or devils in Conor McPherson’s new play about downtrodden Dublin folk. But this tale of a lonely drifter and a pathetic prostitute is haunting nonetheless.
Macbeth (Alan Cumming version)
Not to be confused with the middling Ethan Hawke production now at Lincoln Center. Set in a bleak isolation ward of a mental facility, this bold staging casts Cumming as a patient acting out Shakespeare’s tale under the watchful eyes of several surveillance cameras and two attendants. Through the harrowing tales of both the driven Thane and the tormented mental case enacting the story, Cummings unsparingly leads us into dark and frightening corridors of the human mind.