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3. “Other Desert Cities,” Guthrie Theater. Another strong director, Peter Rothstein, drew out confident and sharply etched performances from David Anthony Brinkley, Sally Wingert and Michelle Barber. It was fun to watch these actors bare their fangs and tear into the Jon Robin Baitz script.
4. “Courting Harry,” History Theatre. Playwright Lee Blessing crafted a beautiful piece of drama from the untidy relationship between jurists Harry Blackmun and Warren Burger. Friends from childhood, the two grew to strongly dislike each other on the U.S. Supreme Court. Clyde Lund and Nathaniel Fuller, each pitch-perfect, anchored Joel Sass’ production. This was History Theatre at its best.
5. “Nice Fish,” Guthrie Theater. This was a play with at least seven endings — testing our patience with an odd story of two guys in search of lunkers on a frozen lake. However, watching Tony winner Mark Rylance and Jim Lichtscheidl explore Norse myth and the human psyche was irresistible. It was wild and raw work that felt important.
6. “Out of the Pan,” Moving Company. This show honored the company’s Theatre de la Jeune Lune roots. Dominique Serrand, Steve Epp, Nathan Keepers and Christina Baldwin patched together pieces of myth, operatic tragedy and theatrical tricks to create a penetrating fairy tale about an old man and his children. It felt good to see these folks back at it.
7. “Clybourne Park,” Guthrie Theater. Bruce Norris’ play took aim at the clumsy American dialogue over race. Lisa Peterson’s insightful direction nudged the piece to explore the erosion of relationships and our inability to talk straight. Bill McCallum, Jim Lichtscheidl and Shá Cage were particularly strong in the story of one house’s transition over a generation.
8. “Hair,” Seventh House Productions. This group of youngsters caught the exact right spirit for this production. The show felt homemade and brimming with the exuberance of the 1960s. We may or may not hear again from this gang — headed by Cat Brindisi, David Darrow and Matt Riehle — but in the summer of 2013, they were happening.
9. “Spunk,” Penumbra Theatre. Penumbra was coming back from financial troubles last spring, and it needed to remind us how important this theater is to the Twin Cities. Director Patdro Harris and a crackerjack cast demonstrated just that with this collection of stories from Zora Neale Hurston. Jevetta Steele, Austene Van, T. Mychael Rambo and Keith Jamal Downing provided memorable performances.
10. “Steerage Song,” Theater Latté Da. Peter Rothstein and Dan Chouinard launched this story and song cycle about the immigrant experience a few years ago. The revamped piece was that much more satisfying this fall. The arc was crisp and the stories from European immigrants around the turn of the 20th century fit together beautifully. Good for these guys, taking the work in for repairs and coming out with something so strong.
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299