Best of 2015

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

Okay, here's my top ten for LA theater in 2015.

Well, really top ten plus one because you can't talk about the year in theater without talking about the debacle between Actors' Equity and the local union actors who are suing them. We still don't know if this will turn out to be a tragedy or a farce but it took up a lot of space in LA's small theaters and the outcome will likely have profound effects on the ecosystem. Here's hoping, in 2016 we keep the drama in the theater and out of the courtroom.

On to the plays:

Let's start simply with the Wooster Group. REDCAT brought this New York company out for Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation. The show was terribly simple, like a set of Shaker drawers: a minimalist meditation on honesty, utility, and simplicity. I still find myself humming Tis a Gift to Be Simple almost a year later and longing to sit again with these powerful women.

From elemental simplicity to conceptual grandeur, Hopscotch, Yuval Sharon's latest grand idea shuttled audience members in limousines that became private opera houses traversing downtown LA. Three different story lines, two dozen chapters and small audiences of four people at a time. I still long for Mr. Sharon's work to be more rigorous formally and for his concepts to embrace the messy chaos of the city . . . but you can't argue with the scope. We need more ambitious thinking like Mr. Sharon's from our arts leaders.

A pleasant surprise, one of my favorites happened at the Mark Taper Forum. Bent, a play I thought I knew, was powerfully revived. A classic Taper play here directed by Moises Kaufman with a fantastic ensemble. It was the first of several promising signs that the Taper is finally rediscovering its voice.

Sticking downtown, Four Larks again makes my list. This young company melds installation art, theater, and opera in productions that are discovered little treasures. This year they gave in to The Temptation of St. Antony in a pop-up gem of a theater. It was a spectacle in white that has me wanting this company to produce more than once a year.

Another repeat this year was the Echo Theater Company, one of a host of companies inhabiting the Atwater Village Theater. Their production of Adam Bock's A Small Fire was no easy ride. A challenging play about a largely unlikable protagonist was remarkably brave in capturing the ugly, though honest, parts of life. It serves as a beautiful reminder of what's important: the sights, the sounds, the people and feelings that make this difficult life worth living: in short, what it means to be alive in all its pain and glory.

Isn't that why we go to the theater?

Now, for the top of my top ten list you need to subscribe to KCRW's new weekly theater newsletter. Read my final five favorites, get links to my picks of what to see each week, and more theater coverage - sign up at

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

Photo: Barney Moss