Thursday, December 31, 2009

SOB's Favorite Shows Of The Noughties: #1 - August: Osage County

SOB's Favorite Shows Of The Noughties: #1 - August: Osage County (2007, Downstairs Theatre, Steppenwolf, Chicago, IL/2008, Imperial Theatre, New York City, NY/2008, Music Box Theatre, New York City, NY/2008, Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, London, United Kingdom)

Introduction: Hard as it is to comprehend that we're already 119 months into this "new" millennium, we are fast approaching the end of its first decade. While we have yet to agree on what exactly we should call the '00s, I'll take a cue from the fine folks at The Times of London and the BBC and henceforth refer to them at the Noughties.

With that small introduction, I'm pleased to present my list of plays and musicals that wowed me the most during that time. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of shows I've seen over the last ten years, I give you my countdown of my 25 personal favorite shows of the Noughties.

Was there any doubt that August: Osage County would ranks as my favorite show of the decade?

Since first being blown away in the Windy City by Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece back in (appropriately enough) August 2007, I've devoted considerable space to the best-written, best-acted play I've ever seen at Chicago's Steppenwolf, and that's no small feat.

In August: Osage County, Letts has constructed an absolutely brilliant, riotous script that provided for one stellar performance after another by its excellent ensemble. During its acclaimed Broadway run, the play ran even deeper, packing a more lethal, visceral punch than what I saw in Chicago, hitting even harder with greater precision that I would not have even thought possible. Credit Anna D. Shapiro for sharpening this play into a razor-sharp, whip-smart American classic. It was even funnier, too. In London, it took on additional shadings for me as an indictment on American society for the many grievances that came to roost as our economy went over a cliff.

Deanna Dunagan (Violet) delivered a bravura performance for the ages as the matriarch of the Weston clan. But she was matched by an equally stunning ensemble, with Amy Morton giving as good as she got, and even better, as Violet's daughter Barbara; Rondi Reed's Mattie Fae was likely to remind you of your favorite, if she wasn't so crazy, aunt; and Francis Guinan as Mattie Fae's long-suffering husband Charlie offered a sweet dignity to the proceedings, especially when tempered by one of the play's many revelations exposing the startling truth about his own son.

Since first seeing the show in Chicago, I've known that I had witnessed something very, very special in the world of live theatre. Upon considerable reflection, I can attest that this is the best new theatrical work I've seen over the last ten years. It most certainly was almost my personal favorite of the decade.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post. I paid my own way for each of these performances.

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