Best Of Chicago 2010: The Best Theater Of The Year
As 2010 draws to a close, we asked some of Chicago's experts in food, style and music to share their favorite places, people and things of 2010. Monday, HuffPost blogger and 312 Dining Diva Audarshia Townsend rounded up her picks for the best restaurants and bars of 2010. Tuesday, fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson and hair stylist Bathsheba Nemerovski shared their shopping and fashion choices, and CHIRP DJ Pete Zimmerman named the best local albums of 2010 yesterday.
As 2011 looms, and top ten lists of the last twelve months abound, the theatre community often has trouble seeing past Chicago's big shouldered companies and recalling the efforts of the little guys. Though we would have no trouble lauding Steppenwolf's dynamic season, we thought we might take a moment to commend the storefront and non-equity world, the shows we saw in small, inventive spaces, and the folks who took the biggest risks to bring us the year's most memorable evenings.
1. The Twins Would Like To Say - Dog and Pony Theatre Company
Dog and Pony is known among the non-profit theatre scene in Chicago as a company who not only produces fresh original work but also presents it in an inventive way that constantly has the audience member in awe. Creators Seth Bockley and Devon de Mayo brilliantly turned Steppenwolf Theatre's Garage Theater into the actual world of the "Twins" by presenting the show in a promenade form, giving the audience the opportunity to choose which plot line they wanted to follow and actually shadow those characters around the space. With a smart use of choreography, technical elements and strong dialogue, "Twins" is still fresh in the minds of those who saw it months ago. -EB
2. Red Noses- Strawdog Theatre Company
This summer's remount of Peter Barnes' "Red Noses" at Strawdog was Theatre, was a hilarious and poignant look at the Black Plague. The Strawdog crew certainly left no moment unexamined in their second exploration of the work. Enhanced by a brilliant ensemble and a host of well-integrated musical numbers, audiences left the theatre prepared to put on a clown nose and face the world. -HF
3. Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind - The Neo-Futurists
A weekly classic, Too Much Light should grace top ten lists for years to come. From rolling the die to determine your individual price of admission, to shouting along with the rest of the audience as you collectively try determine the order of the 30 mini-plays, the Neofuturists present a different adventure with each show. As they create new pieces each week, this collective of writers and performers consistently showcase their remarkable generative skill. -HF
Some TMLMTBGB history...
4. 1001 - Collaboraction
Jason Grote's phenomenal reimagination of Scheherzade's stories made its Chicago debut this fall, helmed by visionary director Seth Bockley. The ease with which the piece snaked between tones, genres and plot lines transfixed its audiences, and reconnected us to theatre's basic storytelling elements. -HF
5. Scorched - Silk Road Theatre Project
An utterly tragic piece about the intricacies of a country and a family torn apart by war, Scorched tells the story of a brother and sister's quest to uncover the histories of their parents, while consequently discovering the truth about their own origins. The ensemble's mastery of the plays's poetic language, combined with the harsh elements that seem to transcend directly from Greek tragedy, gave us a production that was equal parts fable and brutal reality. -HF
6. Cabaret - The Hypocrites
The Hypocrites, known for their exciting and edgy versions of traditional works, delivered once again with their interpretation of the already edgy "Cabaret". The vivacious, hyper-sexualized Kit Kat Club dwellers, desperate and naturalistic Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, and youthful, strung out Sally & Cliff combined to present a cabaret that was dangerous, gritty and present. Director Matt Hawkins presented one striking image after another, including the addition of young boy as a constant onlooker to the action, Sally Bowles snorting coke as her crutch of choice and, yes, a female Emcee. -HF
7. Nutcracker - House Theatre Company
The House put its usual technicolor spin on this beloved Christmas classic, pleasing adults and children alike with its memorable characters, sentimental and slightly off-kilter musical numbers, and most satisfying moments of danger. Beyond the singing, dancing and terrifying illusion of a giant "rat king", however, the House's talented cast makes the story feel even richer and more heartrending than ever.
8. Chaste - Trap Door Theatre Company
If Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher Paul Ree and the young writer Louise Salome had formed the intellectual commune they dreamt up in 1882, it might have looked a bit like this. Ken Prestininizi's witty play about the trio was filled with humor, physical escapades and unbelievable sexual energy. The characters traipsed around an angular and complicated set, mirroring their constant need to intellectualize and complicate their simple human urges. -HF
9. Company - Griffin Theatre
Jonathan Berry is one of the most promising directors in the Chicago Theatre scene, so when he decided to take a stab at Stephen Sondheim's "Company" for the Griffin Theatre, it quickly was added to the Must-See-Lists of the Chicago community. The sound produced by the cast of "Company" was so impressive, captivating and powerful that at intermission you checked your programs in disbelief that they weren't Equity members. Though the original "Company" was written in 1970, Berry was able to put a contemporary twist on its concept, bridging a gap of over 40 years and revealing that the subject of being alone will never be dated but will always be longed to be understood and comforted. - EB
10. Astronaut's Birthday - Redmoon
Redmoon's brought audiences outside this summer to witness their massive illustrated experiment at the Museum of Contemporary Art. A challenge to our common expectations of a theatrical event, Astronaut's Birthday utilized the beautiful and accessible MCA space to tell a simple and entertaining story. -HF