Tuesday, May 27, 2008

SOB's Best Of 2007-08: Best Revivals Of Plays

SOB's Best Of 2007-08: Best Revivals Of Plays

Over the past year, I've had an opportunity to see 22 revivals of plays throughout the United States. Many tested the limits of my imagination, while others simply tested my nerves, but overall, there were many fine productions to be seen.

Here's my personal "5 Best" list of the revivals I'm thankful I had a chance to see:

5 - Boeing-Boeing (Longacre Theatre, New York, NY)

Looking for the funniest, laugh-out-loud comedy now on the Great White Runway? Look no further than the current Broadway revival of Boeing-Boeing. It's a mostly fantastic, high-flying farce. As absurd as the storyline is, Matthew Warchus portentously propels this first class flight to a new altitude with a turbocharged cruising speed that left me breathless from laughing. Much of the marvelous mirth comes from watching Mark Rylance, who proves even a great Shakespearean actor can be a worthy master of slapstick comedy. Nearly as wonderful is Christine Baranski's wickedly funny propensity for broad comic relief, whether it's with an exaggerated roll of her eyes or via her deadpan, droll response.

Boeing-Boeing is about the wildest ride on Broadway. Fasten your seatbelts!

4 - A Bronx Tale (Walter Kerr Theatre, New York, NY)

Chazz Palminteri's enthralling solo show A Bronx Tale arrived to well-deserved audience cheers from The Bronx and beyond when it was revived this season on Broadway. Palminteri vibrantly brought to life 18 different characters in an astonishing first-person account of his coming of age on some of New York City's toughest streets. A master storyteller, Palminteri succeeded in weaving a captivating ninety minute tale that built to a climax that can only be characterized as indisputably gripping theatre. I was in the palm of his hand.

Told from his heart, Palminteri's message was so powerful and breathtaking that it deserves to be heard far beyond The Bronx when the production begins its national tour this fall.

3 - The Trip To Bountiful (The Albert, Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL)

A theatrical experience that plainly stated exactly what it was, right up front, in its title, Horton Foote's The Trip To Bountiful was just that and so much more in the wonderful revival playing Chicago's Goodman Theatre earlier this year. The playwright's brilliance was more than proficiently realized by director Harris Yulin through the incandescence of its performances. As the aptly named Carrie Watts, Lois Smith provided an astonishing luminescence, burning brighter as her yearning to return home to a place called Bountiful, one last time, became a transformative power. Never mind that she was trying to get there against the will of her control freak daughter-in-law Jessie Mae, magnificently and haughtily portrayed by the playwright's daughter Hallie Foote. Both actresses were nothing short of excellent.

With acting beyond bountiful, this was one show that was definitely worth making the trip to see.

2 - Pygmalion (American Airlines Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company, New York, NY)

Sure, some audiences may have been expecting My Fair Lady only to be disappointed by the lack of a score. But David Grindley's splendid five act revival of George Bernard Shaw's classic Pygmalion was practically pitch perfect nonetheless, thanks in part to a flawlessly superb performance by Jefferson Mays as Professor Henry Higgins and an equally compelling Boyd Gaines as the genteel Colonel Pickering. With aplomb and grace, Claire Daines proved a revelation as Eliza Doolittle. I adored this show and its genuine blissful humanity that echoed in the music of its lyrical spoken word.

Pygmalion is one period piece that remains timeless, and thanks to the Roundabout Theatre Company, audiences had another opportunity to revel again in the story that launched the famous musical.

1 - Cymbeline (Vivian Beaumont Theatre, Lincoln Center, New York, NY)

Forget Macbeth. Broadway's far superior William Shakespeare revival of the year was Lincoln Center's underappreciated Cymbeline. Sending an unexpected, yet definable chill of delight shooting down my spine, I found myself utterly thrilled. Director Mark Lamos restored the work's long lost luster via his brilliant, sparkling vision, empowering his cast to maneuver through the Byzantine layers of plot unscathed, as well as to navigate through the cadences of Shakespeare's often difficult language with such natural precision, grace and gusto, that they never felt unnatural or forced. In fact, Shakespeare never sounded so crisp. She may have received a Tony nod for her amazing work in Top Girls for playing two very different roles, but in Cymbeline, the luminous Martha Plimpton moved every bit as skillfully from dazzled lover to forlorn royalty in hiding with unimpeachable ease that was equally moving.

Unquestionably, this was singularly the best production of one of the Bard's works I have ever seen.

So what were the best revivals of plays you saw over the past year? I invite you to join the conversation by sharing your own theatre experiences with me.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
SOB's Best Of 2007-08: Best Special Theatrical Events (May 24, 2008)
The SOB Five "Worst" Of 2007-08 (May 23, 2008)
SOB's Best & Worst Of 2007-08 Theatre Season (May 22, 2008)
SOB's Best Of 2006-07: Top Ten Of The Year (June 4, 2007)
SOB's Best Of 2006-07: Best New Musicals (May 22, 2007)
SOB's Best Of 2006-07: Best New Plays (May 21, 2007)
SOB's Best Of 2006-07: Best Revivals Of Musicals (May 18, 2007)
SOB's Best Of 2006-07: Best Revivals Of Plays (May 16, 2007)
The SOB Five "Worst" Of 2006-07 (May 14, 2007)
SOB's Best & Worst Of 2006-07 Theatre Season (May 14, 2007)
SOB's Best of 2005-06: #1 - Theater Of The New Ear (May 30, 2006)
SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #2 – Guys And Dolls (May 26, 2006)
SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #3 – Hedda Gabler (May 25, 2006)
SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #4 – A Blameless Life (May 24, 2006)
SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #5 – Reeling (May 23, 2006)
SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #6 – “MASTER HAROLD”…And The Boys (May 21, 2006)
SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #7 – Love Song (May 19, 2006)
SOB's Best of 2005-06: #8 - Billy Elliot The Musical (May 18, 2006)
SOB's Best of 2005-06: #9 - The Well-Appointed Room (May 17, 2006)
SOB's Best of 2005-06: #10 - Sweeney Todd (May 15, 2006)
SOB's Best and Worst of 2005-06 Theatre Season (May 12, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2004-05 (May 26, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2003-04 (May 25, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2002-03 (May 25, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2001-02 (May 24, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2000-01 (May 23, 2006)

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At 28 May, 2008, Blogger Theatre Aficionado at Large said...

4. "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (Better than I expected)
3. "Old Acquaintance" (Dated, yes. But Harriet Harris' trashing of the apartment scene alone was enough to make it a fun time)
2. "Pygmalion" (many echoed sentiments)
1. "Come Back, Little Sheba" (If anyone other than the "August" girls deserved the award it's S. Epatha Merkerson's devastating performance as Lola. Unbelievably affecting).

those are the four I liked

At 28 May, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

TAAL, Thanks for sharing!!

I also enjoyed Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, which just missed making my top five.

While I enjoyed Harriet Harris in Old Acquaintance and wasn't as bothered by its old chestnut quality as many of the critics were, it would rank about #10 on my list.

Finally, while I found S. Epatha Merkerson to be quite affecting, I didn't buy the story itself.

But I also welcome such a divergence of opinion, especially coming from someone whose opinion I value like you.

At 28 May, 2008, Anonymous Dylan said...

Love seeing your choices for the best of the season in every category, Steve. Don't know how you find the time but I'm grateful that you do. As for myself, I've got to go with Boeing-Boeing in this category. I still smile when I think of it.


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