These are 10 favorite shows from 2016 in no particular order. In some cases, I grouped shows that had relevance for each other — a few noteworthy musicals, social issues, classics and small creations.
“Ragtime,” Theatre Latté Da. Peter Rothstein shaved this big story into a chamber opera. Sasha Andreev, Britta Ollmann, David Murray and Traci Allen Shannon led a really good cast in a production that showed tremendous heart throughout.
“The Shining,” Minnesota Opera. Speaking of opera, the adaptation of Stephen King’s novel by composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell had its world premiere last May. It was spare and dynamic. Brian Mulligan sang the crazed Jack Torrance, Minnesota’s Kelly Kaduce was frazzled Wendy, his wife, and Alejandro Vega played Danny.
“Trouble in Mind,” Guthrie Theater. This is such a good script. Director Valerie Curtis Newton’s ear was perfectly tuned to Alice Childress’ backstage story about race, role playing and privilege. Margo Moorer led the good cast and it all sang with that 1950s style of well-made plays.
“The Christians,” Walking Shadow Theatre Company. Amy Rummenie directed with sincerity and respect and it was absolutely the right choice for Lucas Hnath’s play about a megachurch pastor who has a crisis of faith. Actors Andrew Erskine Wheeler, Bonni Allen and Kory LaQuess Pullam played it honestly.
“Bad Jews,” Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company. Miriam Schwartz and Michael Hanna chewed every bit of furniture on stage and it was delicious to watch. Again, playwright Joshua Harmon’s tale was about loaded religious issues — whether piety or family traditions matter most — and these two young actors tore it up.
“Disgraced,” Guthrie Theater. It is noteworthy that three shows on this list have to do with religion. This one is in many ways the most compelling because it strikes so close to a man’s identity. Ayad Akhtar writes about a Muslim-American lawyer who finds himself defined by others as the stereotype he has been fleeing.
“A Raisin in the Sun,” Park Square Theatre. You can do this show in a church basement with kid actors and I would go see it. Lorraine Hansberry gave theater this one beautiful gift and director Warren Bowles took care of it. Darius Dotch loved playing one of the greatest roles ever written; Aimee K. Bryant and Greta Oglesby were there, too. It was an event.
“C.” Latte Da. This was both a slight piece and a substantial accomplishment. Bradley Greenwald adapted Cyrano (with composer Robert Elhai) and played the lead in a very muted but present musical treatment (solo voice accompanied by solo guitar on stage). Greenwald was his funny and noble self in a role that fit him well.
“Happy Days,” Open Eye Theatre. This little production of Beckett was perfect for Open Eye’s space. Amy Warner portrayed the bravest kind of Winnie, a generous and friendly survivor. Michael Sommers’ spidery Willie was a great presence.
“The Story of Crow Boy,” In the Heart of the Beast. I had not been to HOBT in years, but how could you not like the lineup of artists? Sandy Spieler, Steven Epp, Masanari Kawahara and Momoko Tanno told the story of Taro Yashima, an artist who triumphed over his suffering in World War II. Elegant and uncompromising in its slightly ragged, homemade charm.
Graydon Royce is a longtime Star Tribune theater critic. firstname.lastname@example.org