FEATURE: Top 10 Shows of 2018

FEATURE: Top 10 Shows of 2018

By my count, I’ve attended 246 performances of theatre, dance, music, opera, and cabaret during 2018.  Out of a field that large, it’s hard to pick just ten, but nevertheless, here are my top ten favorite shows I saw in New York (including no new musicals and only three Broadway shows!):

Chaunté Wayans, Dana Delany, Lea DeLaria, Ana Villafañe, and Adina Verson in “Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties”. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Chaunté Wayans, Dana Delany, Lea DeLaria, Ana Villafañe, and Adina Verson in “Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties”. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus


10. “Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties(MCC Theater)
Jen Silverman’s blazingly brilliant new play might not have been the critical hit I wished it had been, but I was rapt by all 90 minutes of this uproariously funny and poignant queer, feminist, intersectional comedy about five women named Betty putting on a devised piece of theatre.  Smart direction and design, and a stellar cast, made this fresh, original, and urgently-now play a must see of the fall season.  Read my review. (closed 10/7) 


9. “Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish(National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene)
Director Joel Grey’s triumphant revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” in Yiddish (with English and Russian supertitles) is so revelatory that it feels like seeing “Fiddler” for the first time.  What might be perceived as a language barrier becomes an invitation to lean in, see, hear, feel, and understand more than you ever have before, and Steven Skybell is the best Tevye I have ever seen.  Fortunately, this sold out production moves to Off-Broadway’s Stage 42 this winter.  Read my review. (thru 12/30, resumes Off-Broadway 2/11, get tickets)


8. “Pass Over(LCT3)
Antoinette Nwandu’s “Pass Over” is probably the most viscerally unsettling and provocative play I have ever seen on stage.  A modern Exodus story that is a cry for justice, it reveals, in high relief, a tragic cycle of race, power, privilege, and oppression rippling across time from a “ghetto street” in the present to a plantation in 1855, to 13th century BCE Egypt.  The audience after my performance exited the theatre in complete silence—indicted, and hopefully changed.  Read my review. (closed 7/22; watch Spike Lee’s film adaption) 

Alison Pill, Glenda Jackson, and Laurie Metcalf in “Three Tall Women”. Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe.

Alison Pill, Glenda Jackson, and Laurie Metcalf in “Three Tall Women”. Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe.


7. “Three Tall Women(Broadway)
The Broadway premiere of Edward Albee’s 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning play was ferociously compelling and exquisitely directed by Joe Mantello, and featured a trio of astonishing performances, including Tony winning turns from Glenda Jackson (returning to the New York stage after a 30 year absence) and Laurie Metcalf, and Alison Pill—all playing three versions of the same woman at different ages.  There wasn’t a better play in New York in 2018.  Read my review. (closed 6/24)


6. “Angels in America(Broadway)
Marianne Elliott’s glorious production of Tony Kushner’s epic and groundbreaking magnum opus—one of the best and most important plays ever written—transferred from London’s National Theatre for a limited run.  Kushner’s symphony of a play—a “gay fantasia on national themes” that is both an affirmation of life and a meditation on the painful process of progress—proved its genius in the newfound resonance it had in this moment of political upheaval and change.  Nathan Lane, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, and James McArdle were standouts in a near-perfect ensemble cast.  I sat through all 7 hours and 30 minutes on four separate occasions, and would do it again in a heartbeat.  Read my review. (closed 7/15)


5. “The Damned(Park Avenue Armory)
Belgian auteur Ivo van Hove’s breathtaking and terrifying stage version of Luchino Visconti, Nicola Badalucco, and Enrico Medioli’s 1969 screenplay—performed by the historic Comédie-Française—was an easy pick for this list.  A visceral, tension-filled ritualistic dirge about the fall of a fictional German industrialist family alongside the rise of The Third Reich, van Hove’s expansive production coursed with violence, sex, and brutality in extreme close-up, aided by two videographers who produced a corresponding film in real-time.  This bold and memorable play reminded me that there is no limit to the potential of live theatre, and of the fierce urgency of art to counter evil.  Read my review. (closed 7/28)


4. “Yerma(Park Avenue Armory)
Just like last year, a second Park Avenue Armory presentation from their spectacularly curated season makes my list.  The Young Vic’s acclaimed 2016 production of Simon Stone’s adaption of Spanish writer Federico García Lorca’s 1934 play featured Billie Piper offering an astounding portrait of a woman’s descent into madness fueled by her infertility.  A modern Greek tragedy both heart-stopping and jaw-dropping, Stone’s production, performed in a sealed glass box, produced a disorienting and enveloping stage magic unlike any I’ve seen before.  Read my review. (closed 4/21)


3. “The Ferryman(Broadway)
Easily the best play on Broadway, Sam Mendes’ production of Jez Butterworth’s exquisite and ravishing new play follows the sprawling Carney clan of County Armagh, Northern Ireland on one fateful harvest festival day in late August 1981 as secrets are revealed, the past confronted, and tragic choices made.  All thrilling three hours and 15 minutes—a chaotic slow boil—are ecstatically captivating as Butterworth and an outstanding cast of 21 (plus an infant, a goose, and a rabbit!) successfully capture the totality of human existence through the lens of a single event.  The last five minutes leave you breathless.  Read my review. (thru 7/7, get tickets)  


2. “What the Constitution Means to Me(New York Theatre Workshop)
If there is any justice in the world, Heidi Schreck should receive the Pulitzer Prize for her stunning and poignant, mostly-one woman play recounting her formative experience of wrestling with the constitution’s meaning as a teenager through the lens of her adult self, the women in her family, and the bitterly divided nation it serves.  Part memoir, part civics lesson—at once bittersweet and beautiful—Schreck weaves a heartbreaking and humorous account of her relationship with her own citizenship that is profoundly moving and invigorating.  I wept.  You will, too.  Few evenings in the theatre have ever felt more vital.  Read my review. (thru 12/30, get tickets)  


1. “Oklahoma!(St. Ann’s Warehouse)
Director Daniel Fish’s glorious and terrifying production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s groundbreaking 1943 musical “Oklahoma!” completely deconstructed this canonical and totemic masterpiece of American musical theatre, highlighting the darker themes of violence and injustice that have always been simmering just beneath the sunny melodies and gleeful optimism of its characters.  Sexually charged and presented with a striking naturalism, this masterful new production is a revelation, and easily the best show I saw all year.  Luckily, it transfers to Broadway this spring.  Make sure you get tickets.  Read my review.  (closed 10/11; resumes on Broadway 3/19, get tickets)

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order, hyperlinks to my reviews and tickets): A Chorus Line” (City Center); “Carousel” (Broadway); “Black Light” (Public Theater); “Dance Nation” (Playwrights Horizons); “Gloria: A Life” (Off-Broadway) (thru 3/31, get tickets); “Hangmen” (Atlantic Theatre Company); “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” (Broadway) (currently running, get tickets); “The Jungle” (thru 1/27, get tickets); “Mean Girls” (Broadway) (currently running, get tickets); “Midnight at The Never Get” (York Theatre Company); “Network” (Broadway) (thru 4/28, get tickets); “queens” (LCT3); “Slave Play” (NYTW) (thru 1/13, get tickets); “The Prom” (Broadway) (currently running, get tickets); “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Broadway) (currently running, get tickets); “Torch Song” (Broadway) (thru 1/6, get tickets); “Travesties” (Broadway); “Usual Girls” (Roundabout Theatre Company); and “The Waverly Gallery” (Broadway) (thru 1/27, get tickets).

tl;dr for January 1st

tl;dr for December 21st