The Year's Best

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

Okay, while we've all got presents on our minds, here are the top 10 gifts LA got from theater this year.

Let's start with the big guys. UCLA returned to presenting international theater and while their schedule wasn't quite as robust as it could be, it's great to have them back.

UCLA also played a small part in LA Opera's presenting Robert Wilson and Phillip Glass' Einstein on the Beach - without a doubt a masterwork for both the theater and opera. I don't know what's more shocking: that it's still so fresh or how few works have matched its scope.

One playwright who did was August Wilson. The Taper's production of Joe Turner's Come and Gone reminded us not only of the Taper's place in that legacy but in the power of a his work. No company or city has fully produced all 10 plays of the cycle. Come on LA! The clock is running on this one.

There's one play that stood out that you can still see: Peter and the Starcatcher at the Ahmanson. It's theater with a small ensemble heart that fills a big space.

The Geffen has figured out how to program its smaller 125-seat theater. No better example than Neil LaBute's take on Miss Julie. It was intimate, sexy, and disturbing.

Okay, now for the heart of LA theater the smaller spaces.

When it comes to heart, it's tough to beat 24th Street Theatre. Walking the Tightrope was a heartbreaking and beautiful adult play for kids and more proof that 24th Street is an essential LA theater.

The Matrix has chosen a path more LA companies might do well to follow: produce one play a year and do it well. Brace yourself for the title of this year's We Are Proud to Present a Presentation about the Herero of Namibia, formerly Known as Southwest Africa, from the German Sudwestafrika, between the Years 1884-1915.

The Evidence Room used to be a staple of LA theater. After a few dormant years, they've come back to life at their new home: the Odyssey Theatre. Annapurna beautifully confined Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly inside an aluminum teardrop trailer. It's headed to a production in New York and with good reason.

Theater Movement Bazaar has been toiling in LA theaters for more than a decade. At last their quirky, witty physical work is getting recognized beyond LA. They were part of Radar LA, did a tour in Ediburgh and China, and produced several shows in LA. My favorite was Hot Cat, their take on Tennessee Williams' classic.

Which leads me to Rogue Machine Theatre. They're on a roll. As many of the theater companies we used to rely on fade away, Rogue Machine has filled the vacuum with consistently exciting, gritty work. If you don't know this company - you should.

It was another great year for theater in LA.

What were your favorites? Add your top picks to the list.

Next week, the year ahead . . .

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