Best of 2012

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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater

for KCRW.


Here are ten plays that made LA's life richer in 2012.

Let's begin with a quartet of plays that made Time a character.

It's hard to not be moved by third act of Thorton Wilder's classic Our Town. In David Cromer's beautiful production at the Broad Stage, our own mortality mingled with theatrical magic and the savory smell of cooking bacon.

John Hurt captured the bittersweet anguish of looking back in Krapp's Last Tape at the Kirk Douglas Theater. He mixed a vaudevillian's glee with the pain of desire in a performance that will resonate with me for years.

Argentinian director Mariano Pensotti made time a part of the theatrical architecture in his masterpiece El pasado es un animal grotesco at RedCat. On a spinning stage, we watched the lives of 4 characters unfold over a decade. It was an alchemical mix of cinematic images, novelistic insight, and beautiful acting.

Eight hours. A workday. That was the length of Gatz, Elevator Repair Service's telling of The Great Gatsby at RedCat. I wish I could see it again tomorrow.

Switching from Time to the art of Ensemble, three plays stood out.

The Ebony Theatre Company's production of A Raisin in the Sun at the Kirk Douglas breathed life into a classic. Produced as a pairing to Clybourne Park it eclipsed it and made me long for plays that speak with such an insightful and complicated voice.

Cornerstone Theater Company is always about giving voice to communities but there was something special about Cafe Vida. The first in their Hunger Cycle, the stories of the Home Girl Cafe rang out and reminded us that theater might be more than we think it is.

Red at the Mark Taper Forum was a master class in acting. Alfred Molina and Jonathan Groff were magical as Mark Rothko and his young assistant.

Finally a trio of home-grown plays that captured the theatrical guts and the creative breadth of LA Theater.

Zombie Joe's Underground adaptation of MacBeth, called The Blood of MacBeth, haunted a Noho theater the size of a shoebox. They teased more magic out of blackouts and five clip lights than I've seen in a long time.

In Eternal Thou, Matthew McCray used the seemingly un-theatrical concept of Net Neutrality as a springboard. The result was an elegantly designed, physically virtuosic, Sci-Fi fantasy that could only happen in the theater.

Circle X showed real dramatic guts by producing a musical about, of all things, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal called Bad Apples. A polyamorous love story, I found myself laughing at the detestable, aroused by what at first seemed repugnant, and tapping my toes to a tune about torture. It's also a compelling argument for why we need small theater tackling big ideas.

It was a great year in LA Theater!

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

Banner image: Toby Simkin