Yes! We survived the holidays!!!! They are over!!
It’s the beginning of a New Year, but what a year was 2015 for theater enthusiasts! Outside the big shiny area with names like “Hamilton,” or “Spring Awakening,” productions were wowing audiences. The festivals provided us with terrific productions from independent companies that have to hustle and grind to do what they love. In this maze of an island, new plays were opening everywhere, each one challenging the other. Some were amateurish, some were mind-blowing, some were important, but all of them lived on stage in 2015. It was an honor to enjoy the creativity and unaltered dedication that the artists of this city gave us; I wish I could have seen them all!
To celebrate a great year and to go into the new one with a fresh slate, these are the top TEN Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway shows I had the privilege of attending and made my butt happy to sit there.
In here are the five plays that even though were quite good, did not make it to the top 10.
- Irish Repertory Company “The Weir”: A haunting production of the great Conor McPherson play. Did not make the top 10 thanks to another revival from the same company, which deserved it a little bit more.
- Mind The Art’s Entertainment “Beware The Chupacabra!”: A fringe festival favorite. A fun play which didn’t crack the top 10 because of a more polished product from the same company.
- Migguel Anggelo “Another Son From Venezuela”: A moving and impactful concert that was truly inspirational. The reason it’s not in the top 10 is that the nature of the show is not theatrical, but it has some elements of it.
- Dogstar Theatre Company “The Tailor of Inverness”: Kickstarting the Brits Off-Broadway festival in 2015, this play has played in my mind much more than I originally thought.
- Seeing Place Theatre “Gidion’s Knot/The Pillowman”: Not as good as the others mentioned, but way bolder. This was a risk by an independent theater company that demanded our attention, and you should give it to them.
Now to the top TEN play production of 2015!
- Fishamble The New Play Company “Little Thing, Big Thing”
“I commented a couple of weeks ago how the action on another production was so innovative and just plain fun. I didn’t think just a few weeks later I would see a show that rivals the thrillers made in Hollywood during the 70’s new Hollywood era. But it wasn’t on my television or a movie screen, no, it was on stage.”
- The Irish Repertory Company “Da”
“The production put together by The Irish Repertory Theater is one that goes with the magnificent script like peanut butter and jelly. The actors are firing in all cylinders, not afraid to act silly and turn it around with a certain bittersweet seriousness. The questions asked are answered with such beauty through each of this group of thespians’ choices.
- Mark Thomas “Cuckooed”
“This could be a vanity project, but it wasn’t. It used a personal account to produce a theme that goes beyond the actor and exposes what is truly a universal threat, a fear that resides in all of us. What Thomas does so well is that instead of exploiting that fear for a cheap reaction, he makes you feel comfortable with the idea of standing up to it, to look at in the face and laugh.”
- New George “How To Get Into Buildings”
“Meticulously reckless, the actors own each foot of that stage with characters so surreal that meeting one would freak you out in real life, but they are in real life. They are all around us. It is us, dealing with a traumatic event, and making sense of it. Absurdist plays don’t often work, especially contemporary ones, most of them stink of pretentiousness, but this one does not. While it may not be crystal clear in its message, it is easy to understand, and then piece together. It is both extremely entertaining and heartbreaking, I laughed the ninety minutes.”
- InProximity Theatre Company “Promising”
“With the aim directed at rape culture, the ugliness of social media, and the obsession with death this nation has, the production manages to give us one of the most exciting thrillers on stage right now. And to the amazement of many, not one big effect was used to create the thrills, only great dialogue and acting.”
- Rebecca Aparicio and Stephen Elkin’s “Pedro Pan”
“Since Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights, I have not experienced a show about Hispanic culture that captures the essence as well as this one. But to say only Hispanics would get it would be a lie. This show is for everyone. There were children in the audience, dancing and completely involved in the piece. There were adults laughing and clapping all throughout. In the one hour that we got, I felt more than in any of the many three hours shows I get to see.”
- Mary J. Davis & MBL Productions “C.O.A.L. (Confessions of a Liar)”
“This approach creates a light atmosphere from the get go that ends up working so well to contrast the seriousness that comes later on in the script. The themes are dark; his story is one of hardship, but you never feel dread or pity. You actually do not know how to feel. And when the situations arise, we are treated to these big questions of morality, respect, class division, and the importance of being an individual. This is a good thing. Actually, this is a wonderful thing.”
- Mind The Art Entertainment “Fatty Fatty No Friends”
“This is a children’s show aimed at adults, (or an adult show made for kids) that takes great pleasure of welcoming us into the web of adult themes that are mixed with the simple narrative. This creates an elaborate message at the end, one that is poignant, and it does it without hitting you over the head with it. Most children’s show wears their message on their sleeve, this one might be obvious, but the way it’s told makes it unique and exciting. And children should be able to see it, besides the gory and twisted ending, this is perfect for them. After all, fairy tales used to be like this, to scare children and amuse them at the same time and in the process, teach them.”
- Project Theater “Unity (1918)”
“To say I was floored by this play is an understatement. Right after the show I sat on the long subway ride with a book in hand, but I couldn’t read any words. I was thinking about the play. I went home and sat, and thought about it some more. I’ve been to this theater many times. Watched many shows with great budgets and technical prowess. None of those used the space as well as this minimalistic production. Every little nook was used. Every corner represented something. And the incredible cast gave it life with performances that elevated a text that was already strong. Every performance was different and singling one out would be a disservice to the work they did together. The chemistry of this cast mixed with the excellent sound coordination from Joe Jung and the scenic design of Douglas Clarke creates a theatrical experience I will not forget anytime soon.”
- Poetic Theater Productions “Paradox of the Urban Cliché”
“The desperation that the black community in America exists in is portrayed as real as the bravery they’ve shown when in times of struggle. Struggle is all they know in the hood. Craig ‘muMs’ Grant has giving us a true and powerful lyrical play in which we are not asked to judge or to be judged, but to experience and come to terms of our own. In this day and age, the conversation about racism can no longer be ignored, but it can’t be forced. Grants opens up the discussion by providing both sides of the story without compromising his vision or pointing proverbial fingers. At times the play seems like they are speaking hip-hop lyrics, yet it doesn’t seem unrealistic. In fact, the whole show feels like a hip-hop song — an amazing one detailing the realities that we don’t like to hear, but dance to when it comes with beats. And as it works in music, it works on stage, easing apprehensive people into accepting the harsh facts that a majority of this country lives in.”
Twisted Talk: What were your favorite shows this past year? Have you seen any of the shows on our list? Discuss below!