Please note, dear readers, that this is not a “best of” list! Who am I to make such judgments? What follows are ten theatrical experiences that live vividly in my memories of 2019. Each was wonderful in some way. I could have chosen others.
And a further caveat: there were hundreds of plays produced in the Bay area over this past year; I personally saw fewer than 100, averaging only 2 to 4 plays a month. At most, I manage to attend between 60 and 70 performances a year.
So why make a list? For me, it is a great pleasure to relive these memories and that is reason enough in itself. I hope that readers who also saw these performances will share in my pleasure, and perhaps some will learn of actors or theatre companies new to them who they might want to seek out in 2020.
And so, for what it’s worth, here is my listicle, in the order seen. Click on the titles to read each review. And, by all means, add your own best memories of 2019 to the comments!
“Yoga Play” (SF Playhouse) – An hilarious exploration of new-age merchandising. Great work from Craig Marker who seemed to be doing a very funny sendup of Woody Harrelson.
“Vanity Fair” (A.C.T.) – A charming musical adaptation full of great comic performances, especially Dan Hiatt in drag.
“Jazz” (Marin Theatre Company) – Excellent and affecting.
“Passion” (Custom Made Theatre Company) – The amazingly prolific Stuart Bousel directed this fine revival of Sondheim’s neglected masterpiece.
“Spamalot” at (Marin Shakespeare Company) – Funny! Funny! Funny!
“HMS Pinafore” (Lamplighters Music Theatre) – A reminder of why Lamplighters is recognized as one of the finest Gilbert & Sullivan companies in the world, with a Tony-worthy performance by F. Lawrence Ewing as Sir Joseph Porter.
“Free For All: A ‘Miss Julie’ for a New World (Cutting Ball Theatre) – Stacy Ross gave an astonishingly brilliant performance in an adaption of “Miss Julie” developed specifically to showcase her remarkable talent.
“There Is A Happiness That Morning Is” (Performers Under Stress) – This play featuring two college professors giving lectures on the poet William Blake defied expectations.
“Cloud 9” (Custom Made Theatre Company) – This revival of Caryl Churchill’s play about colonialism seemed as relevant today as it did decades ago.
“Invitation Out” (Quantum Dragon Theatre Company)- This epigrammatic comedy by Shualee Cook gave us a Victorian style comedy-of-manners for the internet age, with multiple zingers worthy of Oscar Wilde himself.
And special mention must be given to the San Francisco International Arts Festival whose yearly residency at Fort Mason brings outstanding companies from all over the world to our city by the Bay. 2019 was no exception, and savvy readers should make absolutely certain that they keep an eye out for the 2020 edition.
Wishing you happiness aplenty in Two Thousand and Twenty. Don’t forget to go to the theatre!
And now, dearly beloved, its on to 2020! See you at opening nights!