- BEST PLAYS OF 2007-2008
- by Tim Treanor
Have Washington theater prices shot out of sight? When the Helen Hayes Awards announced that attendance for 2007 had dropped for the fifth straight year, we asked our readers why.
The most repeated answer was that ticket prices had become prohibitively high, and that the average theatergoer could no longer afford frequent attendance.
I respectfully dissent. Because of this swell reviewing gig, I got to see over seventy plays and musicals this year, and when I added up the top ticket prices for the ten best shows I saw, I got a figure of $510.50 – so, a little over one large for you and your sweetie. Even a humble civil servant, such as myself, could afford such an amount over the course of year for the astounding pleasures those plays presented.
The secret, I submit, is to understand that a play can be wonderful without a gaudy set, or special effects, or New York actors. Four of the top five shows I saw were produced on minimal sets, with astonishing D.C.area actors rolling out a compelling story in a mesmerizing way. And each one of them cost $20 or less.
One last note: it’s hard to go wrong going to theater in D.C. In all of last season, I saw only ten plays that I didn’t like, and in most cases it was because I didn’t like the script – something I could have learned about before I made the decision to buy. I recommend that you go to area theater in 2008 and 2009, and see if I’m not right.
The Best of the Best 2007-2008
10. redshirts, Round House Theatre. We voluntarily invest our sports heroes with the power to represent us. But what is it that we require of them in return? A profoundly savvy and powerful play about race, expectation and failure.
9. Well, Arena Stage. Lisa Kron has identified a new type of storytelling – one in which we in the audience are co-conspirators. Arena Stage’s imaginative staging of this fourth-wall-smashing piece was one of the best things about the 2007-2008 season.
8. The Imaginary Invalid, Shakespeare Theatre. A hugely funny, lively, ambitious treatment of Moliere’s text, and the best set ever – a wonderful triumph for director Keith Baxter and everybody associated with it.
7. 33 Variations, Arena Stage. Moises Kaufman’s best play, twice as good as The Laramie Project. A beautiful blending of fact and imagination, and a sweet and heartfelt examination of the land where dedication and obsession meet.
6. Death of a Salesman, Arena Stage. The play that changed theater forever, rendered by some of Washington’s best actors. The sales business has been entirely revised, but despair never goes out of style.
5. The K of D, Woolly Mammoth. A stunning performance by Kimberly Gilbert brings the glory and the pain of a little girl’s act of revenge to life.
4. The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare Theatre. Rebecca Bayla Taichman’s brilliant treatment of one of Shakespeare’s most controversial plays helps us to understand the play in the context in which it was written.
3. Kit Marlowe, Rorschach Theatre. Adam Jones Segaller gave us a Kit Marlowe viral with joy and life. David Grimm’s wonderful script got a vivid presentation in this astounding production.
2. This Storm Is What We Call Progress, Rorschach Theatre. An extraordinary script relentlessly made human by this marvelous production – terrific performances, and in particular Karl Miller’s indelible portrait of a young man made mad by the quest for the numina.
1. Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Forum Theater. In future years, those who saw this show will speak of it in terms of reverence. Seldom does a play, or any artistic work, so fully challenge our hearts, and almost never successfully. Last Days was more than a play: it was an act of grace.