The 10 Greatest Theater Performances of 2019

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Don’t flip to the theater for escapism this 12 months. On the New York stage, theater artists tackled a lot of America’s most painful, persistent wounds: earnings inequality, racism and the lasting trauma of slavery, civil disobedience, the aftermath of the AIDS disaster. To not point out a comedy concerning the gaping flaws within the nation’s foundational doc, the Structure. It was a thought-provoking, compelling 12 months, a civics lesson for the ages, embraced by audiences hungry to have interaction in probably the most urgent problems with our time.

10. American Utopia

Matthew Murphy

Apart from 90-minute performs with no intermission, the staged live performance is one in all Broadway’s greatest current innovations. Bruce Springsteen set a excessive bar along with his introspective 2017 present, however David Byrne meets that commonplace along with his entertaining American Utopia. Byrne, each inventive genius and dealing artist, absolutely embraces his considerate geekiness, which shines via in each facet of this present. Wry commentary punctuates all of your favourite Speaking Heads songs, carried out by a killer 12-piece band.

9. The Sound Inside

The 10 Greatest Theater Performances of 2019 1
Jeremy Daniel

The Sound Inside is meticulously crafted to attraction to lovers of literature, a savvy tactic to seduce theatergoers who pay to wallow within the spoken phrase. Mary-Louise Parker performs a Yale creative-writing professor, whose essential love in life is her assortment of books. (“I’m a whore for first editions,” her character confesses.) The engrossing, layered plot simmers with pressure, misdirection and recommendation for writers—a cliché like “simmers with tension” would by no means fly in Professor Parker’s class. Parker is doing the form of stripped-down work that Hollywood loves, however she transcends stereotypes by merely inhabiting the function.

8. True West

Joan Marcus

This 12 months, lots of people expressed robust optimistic emotions about Keanu Reeves. I really feel the identical manner about fellow Gen X icon Ethan Hawke—significantly after his mad, manic efficiency on this kinetic revival of Sam Shepard’s True West. (Cool desert set.) Paul Dano, because the “good” brother, hits his stride as the quantity turns as much as 11 and chaos ensues.

7. The Mom

The 10 Greatest Theater Performances of 2019 2
Sara Krulwich—The New York Instances/Redux

French actor Isabelle Huppert offers a delightfully unhinged efficiency as a pill-popping mom obsessed along with her son and contemptuous of her husband (Chris Noth).

6. Antigone

Stephanie Berger

It sounds overwhelming: a Japanese-language model of Sophocles’ almost 2,500-year-old play, invoking parts of Noh theater and Buddhist philosophy, carried out completely in a pool of water. But it was spellbinding and possibly the very best live performance I attended this 12 months, due to mesmerizing accompaniment supplied by world-class percussionists.

5. What the Structure Means to Me

The 10 Greatest Theater Performances of 2019 3
Sara Krulwich—The New York Instances/Redux

The Structure! It’s so humorous! Heidi Schreck wrote and starred in What the Structure Means to Me, which was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Schreck is an excellent comedic actor, and her well timed rationalization of the intent, flaws and that means of the Structure arrived on Broadway in the mean time in our nation’s historical past once we wanted it most.

4. Hadestown

Matthew Murphy

It’s arduous to consider that work on this musical started greater than a decade in the past, since one in all its most memorable songs is a couple of wall and whom it retains out. An intertwined retelling of two Greek myths, Hadestown ran the desk on the 2019 Tony Awards with 14 nominations; it in the end gained eight, together with greatest musical, greatest unique rating, and greatest featured actor in a musical for standout star André De Shields. It additionally gained a Tony for its steampunk scenic design of a most trendy Hades. But it surely’s this present’s prescience that can persist with you, as summed up in its lyrics: “We build the wall to keep us free … The wall keeps out the enemy … The enemy is poverty.”

3. Slave Play

The 10 Greatest Theater Performances of 2019 4
Matthew Murphy

Sure, even within the days of a pussy-grabbing President, it’s nonetheless attainable to shock a Broadway viewers. Jeremy O. HarrisSlave Play is a provocative exploration of intercourse, race, relationships, plus a really humorous send-up of educational pretension. Expertly engineered to generate discomfort within the viewers, its influence and pictures linger for days.

2. The Inheritance

Matthew Murphy

Epic in ambition and scale, this flawed masterpiece concerning the lives of an intersecting group of homosexual males in New York Metropolis is just too lengthy and, at instances, too talky. But there are such a lot of moments of transcendence, significantly the tip of the play’s first half, the place the collected energy of Matthew Lopez’s haunting, heartbreaking story left a lot of the viewers weeping softly.

1. The Lehman Trilogy

The 10 Greatest Theater Performances of 2019 5
Caitlin Ochs—The New York Instances/Redux

The Lehman Trilogy is an electrical commentary on the American Dream gone spectacularly awry. The story chronicles the rise and fall of the onetime Wall Road powerhouse Lehman Brothers, overlaying almost two centuries of bristling ambition, greed, financial historical past and internecine household warfare. Regardless of that huge scope, solely three stellar actors seamlessly painting the entire play’s dozens of characters, a exceptional accomplishment of each talent and endurance. The play is fantastically staged at Park Avenue Armory, which has become New York’s undisputed essential stage for presenting cutting-edge, visually ingenious theater. It’s returning for a Broadway run—order your tickets now.

Contact us at editors@time.com.



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