You'll see no numbers next to these exemplary, Los Angeles-area theatre productions, for they all deserve the greatest respect.
The Gift (Geffen Playhouse)
Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith's provocative play supposes that an older couple (Kathy Baker, Chris Mulkey) invite a young couple (Jaime Ray Newman, James Van Der Beek) to their home. We learn that one man saved the other's life on a vacation and the ensuing favor involves the staggering assumption that raising a child is an easily assumed task.
The Normal Heart (Fountain Theatre)
Director Simon Levy's stellar revival of Larry Kramer's moving indictment of America's slow response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic is led by remarkable leads Tim Cummings and Bill Brochtrup, who provide equal parts humor and rage, abetted by Adam Flemming's moving video design.
One Night in Miami (Rogue Machine in Theatre/Theater)
Playwright Kemp Powers puts the young champion Cassius Clay together after his victory over Sonny Liston with Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Malcolm X and each character is well and ably delineated. The excellent cast and director Carl Cofield create a stirring theatrical event.
The Scottsboro Boys (Ahmanson Theatre, Center Theatre Group)
John Kander and Fred Ebbs lend music and lyrics and David Thompson a solid book for this sly skewering of the history of minstrel shows and the infamous railroading of young black men wrongly accused of a rape in the 1930s. Susan Stroman's direction and choreography are a pleasure to behold.
The North Plan (Elephant Theatre Company)
A very bleak comedy-drama about a military takeover in the US and a white trash Missouri woman who inadvertently holds the key to the truth. David Fofi as director and Jason Wells as playwright make us squirm and laugh with their excellent theatricality.
A View from the Bridge (Pacific Resident Theatre)
Marilyn Fox and Dana Jackson co-direct Arthur Miller's tricky family drama about buried sexual desire, family dynamics and the immigrant experience in American life. The tone, the production design and yes, the dialects, are right on the money.
Selling Out (Whitefire Theatre)
Bryan Dykstra is a master of language, absurd flights of fancy and raw, unbridled emotion. It is more a tone poem than a one-man show and director Margarett Perry gets the best out of him. A visiting production from a New York performer who must be seen to be believed.
The Crucible (Antaeus Company)
A second Miller production worthy of commendation, this laceration of the McCarthy hearings using the façade of the Salem Witch Trials is well-helmed by Armin Shimerman and Geoffrey Wade and a large and uniformly polished cast.
One Night with Janis Joplin (Pasadena Playhouse)
Randy Johnson's writing and direction of this musical tribute to the greatest white blues singer of our time is led by an astounding performance by Mary Bridget Davies, whose singing, talking and even giggling perfectly capture the musical icon, backed up by equally talented singers and a band that betters Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Rodney King (Kirk Douglas Theatre, Center Theatre Group)
Roger Guenveur Smith's hypnotic, sinuous, poetic portrayal of the man tragically associated with the Los Angeles Riots reveals a past that creates exceptional empathy on the part of the audience. It is the kind of theatre that shatters expectations and makes Los Angeles an important center of theatrical production.