Wednesday, May 20, 2020

BEST OF THE DECADE: 10 Favorite Broadway Play Revivals

Yesterday, we began our series about the "Best" of the last decade, from the 2010-2011 season, through the just ended 2019-2020 season. Today, Mike and I name what we considered to be the 10 best Broadway play revivals. I thought this would be difficult since there were a lot of really great classics brought vividly, vibrantly to life, often with new urgency. Without further ado, here are our choices:

The Best of the Decade:
Jeff and Mike's 10 Favorite 
Broadway Play Revivals

10. King Lear (2019): This was a difficult production, with some head-scratching qualities and many non-traditional directorial choices. Nonetheless, some of the best shows are often the most "messy" and challenging. That was certainly the case here. And any chance to see the great Glenda Jackson perform is time well spent. The bonus was getting to see firsthand the talents of Ruth Wilson.


9. The Cripple of Inishmaan (2014): Mike and I are longtime fans of playwright Martin McDonagh, so when this play came to Broadway, we had to see it. Our estimation of the the talents of Daniel Radcliffe certainly grew after seeing his charming, devilish performance; his monologue stays with me still.

8. Twelfth Night, or What You Will (2013): What a thrilling production, done in the style of a traditional Globe Theater presentation. We sat on stage, which afforded a great view not only of the play itself, but the dramatic mechanics of the staging. Mark Rylance, Stephen Fry and Samuel Barnett were each superb.

7. Noises Off (2016): I remember this one vividly - I had stomach cramps from laughing so hard at the mayhem in front of me. The cast was perfection, including a delightfully daffy performance from Megan Hilty, as well as a crazy amount of physical comedy from the likes of Andrea Martin, Rob McClure, Daniel Davis and Jeremy Shamos. and how about that set design by Derek McLane??

6. The Boys in the Band (2018): An important play in the history of gay theater, this harsh piece managed to be both quaintly dated and sharply relevant. Under the sure hand of director Joe Mantello, this all-gay, all-star production was amazing. Talk about a superb ensemble cast! There truly wasn't a weak link. Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells and Matt Bomer did the heavy lifting, with excellent support from Robin de Jesus, Brian Hutchinson, Michael Benjamin Washington, Tuc Watkins and Charlie Carver. Unforgettable.

5. The Waverly Gallery (2018): This gripping memory play also featured a brilliant ensemble cast: Joan Allen, Michael Cera, and David Cromer all gave excellent performances. But the real revelation of this play was the debut of Lucas Hedges and the earth-shattering portrayal of the decline of a woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease by Tony-winner Elaine May. Hers was one of the most realistic (and overwhelming) performance I have ever witnessed. I had zero sense that she was acting, so great was she. What a privilege to have seen it.

4. Three Tall Women (2018): 2018 was a hell of a year for play revivals! This amazing play was the fastest 100 minutes I've ever spent in a theater, I think. I don't even remember breathing, I was so riveted. Joe Mantello once again delivered a tightly directed production, with three women all at the top of their game - Tony-winners Glenda Jackson and Laurie Metcalf, and the woefully underrated Alison Pill. And that stage effect... wow!

3. The Normal Heart (2011): Given the current circumstances, The Normal Heart seems even more relevant than it did in 2011; in 2011 it felt just as relevant as it must have been in 1985 when it premiered. Great plays are like that, aren't they? Again, the ensemble brought together for this production was truly amazing. Lead by Tony-winners Joe Mantello (this time acting his ass off!), John Benjamin Hickey (heartbreaking) and Ellen Barkin (brilliant intensity), the cast basically pinned us to our seats by the sheer force of their passion for the piece. Lee Pace and Jim Parsons made confident Broadway debuts. The final tableau elicited sobs, and we were sent out of the theater ready to continue the fight.

2. The Glass Menagerie (2013): My favorite play of all time, I probably have unrealistic expectations for any production, but I had no complaints about this revival directed by John Tiffany, as notable for its style (that set by Bob Crowley...that lighting by Natasha Katz...that sofa...) as it is for its cast. Each actor brought something new and vibrant to roles very familiar to me, thus illuminating Williams' masterwork in exciting ways. All for actors were quite simply brilliant: Cherry Jones, Zachary Quinto, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Brian J. Smith. The next production I see will have a lot to live up to.

1. Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and Perestroika (2018): I had the chance to see Millennium Approaches when it premiered in the 90's, but nothing prepared me for the life-changing event that was the revival. Alternately intimate and epic, this production was shocking, provoking and life-affirming. Marianne Elliott crafted such a mind-blowing experience it is hard to put into words. We laughed, we cried, we got angry. What an honor to see this company, including my favorite performance ever by multiple Tony-winner Nathan Lane, a riveting turn by Andrew Garfield (winning a much deserved Tony for his efforts), and jaw-dropping work from Lee Pace, Denise Gough, James McArdle, and Amanda Lawrence (as the Angel). I'm still in awe.

Honorable mention: Gore Vidal's The Best Man (2012)


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