This year, it's easy to pick my favorite theatre. Tony Kushner's Angels in America, at the Signature Theatre, and Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart, on Broadway, stood far above anything else I saw in 2011.
Each playwright takes a very different approach to writing about the early days of the AIDS epidemic in New York City, and its devastating impact on gay men. But both tell absorbing stories brought to life by superb actors whose performances had me in tears. They are lyrical and angry and infused with humor and humanity and they will live in my heart forever.
The best of the rest:
This Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Bruce Norris, which I saw at Trinity Rep, draws its inspiration from A Raisin in the Sun. It examines how we talk about race in America both in the 1950s and today. The similarities and differences are at times subtle, at times in your face but always compelling. Norris's characters - why they behave the way they do - left me with much to think about.
Katori Hall's Broadway play imagines the final night of the Rev. Martin Luther King's life, in his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. I was riveted watching Samuel L. Jackson as King and Angela Bassett as a hotel maid he encounters. I thought it was a fascinating look at the civil-rights leader not as an icon but as a man.
This Broadway revival was a great reminder of how great a musical can be when its stories and characters are truly original. Through Stephen Sondehim's songs and James Goldman's book, this is a show that speaks honestly - with humor and pain and poignancy - about what happens as we grow older.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Maybe it had something to do with the rapturous reception for the endearing Daniel Radcliffe as aspiring executive J. Pierrepont Finch, but the crowd just carried me along on this one. It was hilarious and the story of what you have to do to get to the top resonates today. The Broadway revival of Frank Loesser's musical had me grinning from beginning to end.
Porgy and Bess
I saw Porgy and Bess in its pre-Broadway tryout at the American Repertory Theater. It was my first time seeing the show and hearing the Gershwin score and I was captivated. What made this musical so moving for me was the romance at its core. I thought Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis were wonderful together.
I loved Leonard Bernstein's glorious score and the story, adapted from Voltaire by Mary Zimmerman. This production originated in Chicago but I saw it at the Huntington Theatre in Boston. It was an exuberant, inventive and melodic tale about a young man's adventure-filled journey through life. There were so many twists and turns, quirky characters and shifting locations that I was enthralled.