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Opinionist: Year in Theater 2008, The Top Ten Shows

<p>This was the year of <em>Passing Strange, </em> which we saw three times at Broadway's Belasco Theatre before it closed far too prematurely. And we're still bitter about that, because this is the kind of show that would be great to see again every few months, just as RENT fans got to do with their long-running rock musical. And <em>Passing Strange</em> was not only far superior to RENT, it was the best Broadway musical in a year with quite a few triumphs. <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/06/16/south_pacific_wins_big_at_2008_tony.php">The nearly complete snub</a> from Tony award voters speaks volumes about the calcified <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/06/11/tony_award_voters_dont_bother_seein.php">Broadway theater community</a>, but at least we'll have <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/07/07/spike_lee_directing_passing_strange.php">Spike Lee's film version</a> to remember it by. </p>


<strong><em>The Walworth Farce</em>:</strong> This pitch-black comedy from Ireland about a menacing paterfamilias who bullies his sons into performing his amateur farce was alternately side-splitting and frightening. Playwright Enda Walsh is not to be missed next time his work surfaces in town. <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/04/20/opinionist_the_31.php">Read more</a>...


<strong><em>Boom</em>:</strong> The year's funniest play was this apocalyptic comedy by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb about a blind date that lasted longer than humanity. As directed by <a href="http://www.lesfreres.org/">Les Freres Corbusier</a> co-founder Alex Timbers, the performances by this three-actor ensemble were absolutely exhilarating. <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/03/30/opinionist_boom.php">Read more</a>...



<em><strong>The Homecoming:</strong></em> Sure, this revival of Harold Pinter's lacerating masterpiece opened in December '07, but we didn't actually see it until January of this year. And since <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/12/25/nobelwinning_playwright_harold_pint.php">the great man just passed on</a>, we're including it here. This riveting production was bitterly funny and electrifying, thanks in no small part to mesmerizing performances by Raul Esparza and Eve Best. <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/01/06/opinionist_the_27.php">Read more</a>...


<em><strong>Macbeth:</strong></em> The Bard got the <em>Blade Runner</em> treatment in this super-high tech production of Macbeth by Polish theater company TR Warszawa. Staged outdoors in DUMBO under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, the immaculate sound design was pumped directly into spectators' heads through earphones, giving the cinematic action an arresting immediacy. <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/06/22/opinionist_macbeth.php">Read more</a>...


<em><strong>Jollyship the Whiz-Bang:</strong></em> Puppets, pirates, power rock and rum! What could have easily been a half-assed execution of a clever idea proved jubilantly seaworthy at Ars Nova in June. Consider us all aboard for the next raucous voyage to Party Island. <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/06/08/opinionist_joll.php">Read more</a>...



<em><strong>Endgame:</strong></em> Samuel Beckett's unflinching bitter comedy about old age, desolation and the end of days got a star-studded revival at BAM in May. But unlike other celebrity-laden plays, this one featured <em>real</em> talent, with <a href="http://gothamist.com/2007/09/07/john_turturro_d.php">John Turturro</a>, Alvin Epstein, and Max Casella delivering fine performances. But the surprise casting of Elaine Stritch stole the show, and in an interview with Gothamist she opened up about the challenge of performing "Beckett shmeckett." <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/05/06/elaine_stritch.php">Read more</a>...


<em><strong>Dom Juan or The Feast with the Statue:</strong></em> This boldly intimate riff on Moliere by <a href="http://www.ntusa.org/">The National Theater of the United States of America</a> had the audience clustered on swiveling stools in the basement of Long Island City's Chocolate Factory, with the action swirling around in a 360 degree panorama. It was a fun, bawdy romp, with actors galloping by inches from your face, wearing absurdly opulent costumes and brawling to a clever soundtrack of swishing swordplay and cartoonish fisticuffs. Fond memories. <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/02/17/opinionist_dom.php">Read more</a>...


<em><strong>Happy Days:</strong></em> Fiona Shaw's tour-de-force performance in Samuel Beckett's 1961 play was as generous as it was devastating. In an interview with Gothamist, the acclaimed actress told us that the role of Winnie, which ultimately required her to be buried up to the neck, "really is the most difficult!" <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/01/18/fiona_shaw_acto.php">Read more</a>...


<em><strong>The Cenci:</strong></em> This entrancing production of Antonin Artaud's <em>The Cenci</em> utliized the space at the <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/12/10/sohos_ohio_theater_to_close.php">soon-to-close Ohio Theater</a> to its fullest potential, transforming the room into a labyrinthine metaphor for the corrupt papacy's twisted hypocrisies. The dark atmosphere of doom evoked by director John Jahnke’s design team was only enhanced by indelible performances from some of Off Broadway's finest, which included Anthony Torn and Anna Fitzwater. <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/02/10/opinionist_the_29.php">Read more</a>...