Despite the general downturn, there was a lot to see this year. Here's a alphabetical rundown of shows I'm really glad I saw this year, whittled down to eighteen or so from almost one hundred.
The Underground Railway's revival of "Alice's Adventures Underground" was a welcome chance to revisit one of Debra Wise's signature shows in the renovated Durrell Hall at the Cambridge YMCA, a venue which may become a welcome addition to the area's theater stock.
Ronan Noone's "The Blowin of Baile Gall" proved what "The Lepers of Baile Baiste" suggested, that we just might have a new major playwright in town.
Delvena's upclose production of Caryl Churchill's pair of one-acts "Blue/Heart" was particularly effective at the confines of the BCA/Leland while Michael Frayn's "Copenhagen" at the Colonial was perhaps the most effective large-scale production of the year, far more intriguing than Deborah Warner's “update” of Euripedes” "Medea" this fall at the Wilbur.
Back in Cambridge, last summer four veterans from Bread & Puppet did Peter Schumann's "Dirt Cheap Opera", a version of Brecht's “3Penny”, at the nicely kept hall at the YWCA as a benefit for the relocated Zeitgeist Gallery in Inman Square, itself a miniature venue with potential.
Last spring, exiting on a high note, the Market Theatre produced Serbian personality Biljana Srbljanovic's "Family Stories", a four person surrealist nightmare set in Belgrade under bombardment.
After the hilidaze, Paula Plum triumphed at the BPT in John Kuntz's "Miss Price", a unique one person drama where the rest of the cast was invisible. Kuntz's second new play "Jump Rope" done there this summer was interesting, but not as compelling.
Of all the outdoor Shakespeare this summer, Courtney O'Connor's eight-person "Much Ado About Nothing", which toured the parks with the Commonwealth Shakespeare Apprentice Company, was the most satisfying. Publick Theatre's "As You Like it" had Steve Barkenheimer as the quintessential Jacques, while out in Concord, Thom Caron essayed "Timon" under an apple tree.
"Nixon's Nixon", still going strong after eight years, seemed right at home at the Huntington. We still have Dick and Henry to kick around.
Over in Somerville, Lesley Chapman brought "Off the Map" into New England, an even better find than Gilman’s "Spinning Into Butter" seen there this fall.
And the New Rep got new life out of Stoppard's "The Real Thing" last spring with Debra Wise as Annie.
Reagle Players did four outstanding productions last summer. Not enough outsiders saw their junior company do "Honk", but the really big show was "Singin' In the Rain" with all the water and nonsense of the original. "Annie Get Your Gun" with Andrea McCardle was a real close second.
Nancy E. Carroll, after an outstanding performance in "Bailegangaire" for Sugan, showed yet another side of her talents in "The Unexpected Man" opposite Steve McConnell for the Nora Theatre Co. Ms. Carroll then went on to play Gertrude in the summer for the Publick's "Hamlet", surviving a heat-wave in August and almost frostbite in September.
The nine actor cast of Ablaze Theatre's "Under Milk Wood" at the Tremont took on the many roles of that piece with a kind of joy, especially Robert Astyk as blind Capt. Cat.
And back on this coast from L.A., puppeteer/object manipulator Paul Zaloom premiered his "Velvetville" at the Somerville Theatre.
Last winter, Speakeasy took on Tony-nominated "The Wild Party", getting outstanding performances from Bridget Berne, Maureen Keiller, and Merle Perkins among others. "Bat Boy" , their big success this fall featuring Miguel Cervantes in the title role, is just not as good a show, but should do well in its upcoming revival.
The other small musicals done around this year were pleasant enough, but didn't seem worth revisiting. American Classics did Irving Berlin's 1912 "Stop!Look!Listen", which was a pleasant curiosity, and a chance for Bob Jolly to show off.
All in all, it was a pretty good year, considering. Some groups have pretty much used up their coffers however, so dig as deep as you can to keep your favorites going.