Best Of Connecticut Theatre 2011
The Connecticut theatre season had a fair share of low points at the start of 2011, but the New Haven theatre scene, for one, seems to have rebounded making the end of the year rather exciting. What follows, in alphabetical order, my favorite theatre experiences in 2011:
“Ain’t Misbehavin’”: A spirited revival of the Fats Waller revue proved a winner as the Long Wharf Theatre’s season-opening production last October. The musical’s original creators were behind-the-scenes and no doubt added to the success of this smart and sassy offering.
“Belleville”: An exciting, very moving new work from playwright-of-the-moment Amy Herzog had its world premiere last fall at the Yale Repertory Theatre. Maria Dizzia and Greg Heller were wonderful as a newlywed couple living in Paris whose relationship is slowly shifting under the weight of secrets and lies. The year’s best play.
“Beyond Therapy”: Christopher Durang’s zany adult comedy was given a fresh spin with some terrific performances at the Westport Country Playhouse. Director David Kennedy staged the breathless shenanigans to a pleasing frenzy with Lee Savage’s rotating, day-glo sets a stand-out.
“A Doctor in Spite of Himself”: The Yale Rep’s recent crowd-pleasing triumph was an all-bets-are-off manic farce loosely based — with no prisoners taken — on the Moliere classic. Kudos to Christopher Bayes and Steven Epp who developed, directed and acted in this delightful hodgepodge of commedia dell’arte and Punch and Judy.
“Gem of the Ocean”: August Wilson’s epic drama was in good hands at Hartford Stage. The first in the late, great playwright’s 10-play saga about African-American life, the drama percolated with life and purpose under Hana S. Sharif’s loving, steady direction. A gem, indeed.
“She Loves Me”: Glorious, feel-good revival at the Westport Country Playhouse found its Artistic Director Mark Lamos firing on all cylinders essaying the delightful music of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick and a pitch-perfect company of actors. More, more!
“Molly Sweeney”: Lovely, perfectly pitched production of Brian Friel’s haunting Irish drama about a blind woman who undergoes an experimental procedure to regain her sight. The three-person cast of Simone Kirby, Ciaran O’Reilly and Jonathan Hogan could not have been better.
“The Motherf**ker With the Hat”: Hartford TheaterWorks controversial production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ up-to-the-minute play about addiction and recovery was strong enough to survive some questionable casting choices. Beneath all the profane dialogue, drugs and nudity, Mr. Guirgis possesses a wide streak of humanity that infused every moment of his intelligent and thoughtful play.
“My One and Only”: Sheer bliss from the Goodspeed Opera House. George and Ira Gershwin’s frothy musical delight featured top-notch tap dancing and a leading man in Tony Yasbeck who effortlessly owned the role. This was a return to the type of show the East Haddam theatre has specialized in for years and does very well.
“Show Boat”: Another winner from Goodspeed, this rarely produced classic got just about everything right and when powerhouse David Aron Daman sang “Ole Man River” like it had never been sung before, it’s a wonder the theatre is still standing.
Tom Holehan is Co-chairman of the Connecticut Critics Circle and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.