Doug’s Top 12 Theatre Picks for 2012, Pt 2

Written by Doug Strassler on . Posted in Arts & Film, Theater.


Below, find the top 6 theatrical contributions of the first half of the 2012-2013 season! Read Part 1 here.

6. Golden Boy

Bartlett Sher’s impassioned revival proved Clifford Odets morality play to be completely accessible. In a sterling ensemble, Seth Numrich stood out with a breakout performance as the boxer caught between two professions and two worlds, and Tony Shalhoub is an early Tony favorite for his performance as a heartbroken father.

5. Carolee Carmello, Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson

Scandalous, now closed, was a passion project for Kathie Lee Gifford, who honed the book and music for the better part of the last decade. Despite the show’s flaws, star Carmello proved indomitable as the early evangelist, aging several decades and rarely leaving the stage. She sure made a believer out of me.

4. Douglas Hodge, Cyrano de Bergerac

Hodge is one of ’s great transformers – first as a Albin/Zaza in La Cage Aux Folles, and now as the romantic with the pronounced proboscis in Jamie Lloyd’s revival of the Rostand classic. Tough but tender, humorous but heartbroken, Hodge’s performance proved the actor hasn’t lost any of his panache.

3. The Piano Lesson

The still-newborn Signature has mounted its first, well, signature work in Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s revival of this August Wilson classic, arguably the most dramatically sound entry in the late playwright’s cycle. Chuck Cooper, Brandon J. Dirden, Jason Dirden, Roslyn Ruff and James A. Williams were all astonishing in this examination of the complexity in learning both how to look back without anger and move forward with great pride.

2. Tracy Letts and Amy Morton, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Just when you thought we didn’t need another rendering of the Edward Albee milestone, this Steppenwolf import reminded us all what a potent powder-keg Woolf can be, thanks to a push-pull relationship between Letts’ stronger-than-usual George and Morton’s newly vulnerable Morton. Thanks to an underlying subtext of very apparent carnality, these two showed in ways never before seen, just why their relationship is worth saving. I left this performance not with a sense of doom for the couple, but rebirth.

1. Shuler Hensley, The Whale

Hensley might have ended up on this list just for the way he made Jessica Pabst’s 600-pound “fat suit” a second skin, but it’s the way he embodies Charlie’s emotional baggage in Samuel D. Hunter’s sharply observed play that sends him to the top of this list. In Charlie, a hermited gay online tutor literally eating himself to death in his Idaho apartment, Hensley skirts hyperbole to find the truth about suffering and what happens to those who try and reclaim the love they have once forsaken. It’s a performance that never courts false sympathy, and yet remains a wholly empathic one.

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