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Miryam's best theatre of 2008
Miryam's best theatre of 2008
by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to experience the vast breadth and energy and talent this area has to offer us in the theatrical arts. I try to attend a dizzying array of shows, big and small, established buildings or rented halls, full productions or read-throughs, in order to stay aware of all that is here for us, and because I "can." This is wonderful frosting of for me.

I've been asked to give a bit of thought to the highlights of 2008. Keeping in mind that it's my opinion, you may not agree and/or think that I've overlooked an important production. While I welcome comments, I'm already sure that you're right. Here are some of the productions that, months later in most cases, still stand out for various reasons. (The listings are not chronological, nor in any other sensible order.)

For zany, madcap, raucous fun, these productions stand out either for content, execution or both: Reefer Madness (RK Productions) was a sprawling, low budget, kitchy evening of nonstop laughter, making fun of the worst public health movie of all time. Mamma Mia (Paramount) brought a huge touring extravaganza to town that was so much fun, it's easy to see why it's one of the longest-running Broadway shows in history. Zanna, Don't! (Contemporary Classics) was an edgy, funny musical where being straight was the minority orientation and falling in love with the opposite sex was outrageous. The singing, dancing and energy were tops.

For bravura individual or duo performances, these were awe-inspiring: Nick DeSantis in I Am My Own Wife at ArtsWest was technically wonderful and emotionally riveting. Charlayne Woodard in The Night Watcher at Seattle Repertory Theatre wrote and performed a beautiful, tender homage to childless aunts everywhere who fill in for harried, overwhelmed parents, mentoring fortunate youngsters. Amy Thone and Alexandra Tavares, in a gorgeous, spare production at Strawberry Theatre Workshop, brought a fascinating historical character, Leni (Riefenstahl) back to after-life to explain or atone for her alleged sins. Marianne Owen and R. Hamilton Wright pulled out all the stops, physically, in a madcap production of Intimate Exchanges at ACT Theatre.

In a category of "ones I hope you didn't miss," these could go down in Seattle history as some of the best ever. A Streetcar Named Desire (Intiman) had an amazing set, a fantastic cast and an astute director, combining to achieve an achingly emotional production. Angels in America Part 1 (Absurd Reality Theatre) and Angels in America Part 2 (ReAct) combined to allow us to experience the incredible writing of Tony Kushner in what some people believe is the best play written in this century. Becky's New Car (ACT) was a brand-new play by Steven Dietz that was as sharp as if it had had 100 productions, and one of the funniest and wryest comments on midlife crises you're likely to see. God's Ear (Washington Ensemble Theatre) was notable for an astounding set that was so evocative that it took the production to another level. Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 (Seattle Shakespeare Company) was sumptuously acted and costumed. Over the River and Through the Woods (Taproot Theatre) was a wonderful, heartwarming ensemble piece about family you love, even when they drive you crazy. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (Book-It Repertory Theatre) took on an impossible novel and created a challenging theatrical event, memorable for its sensitive handling of nudity and the addition of fantastic musical accompaniment. The Moon Is A Dead World (Annex) was an amazing technical feat on a shoestring, with a great cast. Beauty and the Beast (The Village Theatre) is (still going) a world-class Disneyesque extravaganza with top-notch talent. Another fantastic musical performance that is still going on (yeah!) is the magnificent production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the 5th, which most likely has the best dance sequence in 5th Avenue's history! The Adding Machine (New Century Theatre Company) was a wonderful beginning for a new Equity theater company, as top-drawer in execution as any other more established company could produce this year.

Without exactly calling these "honorable mentions," in this completely opinionated set of "bests," these productions were also memorable and wonderful efforts. Taproot Theatre had a really great season that included Doubt and Susan and God. American Pilot (Theater Schmeater) was a terrific ensemble production that is current in its political message. 3 Days of Rain (Seattle Public Theatre) was an intimate unfolding of parents' relationships to their children. The Highest Tide (Book-It Repertory Theatre) was another great adaptation of a recent novel, with a nimble, incredible 14-year-old theater prodigy as the star. interlace (Annex Theatre) was a funny, provoking look at infinite presence as exemplified by an infinite office tower, populated by Jesus and Satan. Little Women (The Village Theatre) was a heartwarming musical adaptation of a seminal children's book. 1776 (Seattle Musical Theatre) was a rousing presentation of great male singers in Seattle. Even though Showtunes! Musical Theatre only performs each show for two days, their performance of Annie Warbucks, sequel to the musical, Annie, was a great production directed by Annie writer, Martin Charnin, who is now a local. By the Waters of Babylon (Seattle Repertory Theatre) was a wonderful, two-character piece starring Suzanne Bouchard and Armando Duran. The Three Musketeers (Seattle Repertory Theatre) was a rousing comic book come to life that succeeded in making the real world fade away, and that wasn't easy. A Christmas Carol (ACT Theatre) is the 33rd annual presentation of this family-pleasing classic, with great Seattle talent doing their best. A Midsummer Night's Dream (Seattle Shakespeare Company/Wooden O) was one of the funniest renditions of this Shakespeare summer classic, set in a Las Vegas showroom.

The War Party (Seattle Public Theater) was a fascinating new play by local playwright, Vince Delany, that attempted to explore women in politics and whether they need to be twice as good as men to succeed.

Two other special efforts must be mentioned. ACT's importation of The Ilkholm Theater Company from the Ukraine was a risky, expensive move and a wonderful opportunity for Seattle to experience another city's artistic treasure. And anyone fortunate enough to have gone to new theater company, Theatre 9/12, during their Sunday afternoon one-acts by local playwrights knows that they spent their Sunday in a meaningful way.

You Can't Take It With You is still playing at the Rep and is certainly a fun evening. It rates a mention, as well, and at least this is one you can still go see. Add A Christmas Carol, Beauty and the Beast, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and you have some real treats you can still see this year. (A Christmas Carol and Seven Brides close this weekend, though, so you'd have to put them on your list first.)

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