Best of 2013: Best Broadway shows and Off Broadway productions

From the best new Broadway shows to groundbreaking downtown experiments, it was a very good year for New York theater.

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  1. Intro
  2. David Cote's best of 2013
  3. Adam Feldman's best of 2013

Adam Feldman's ten best shows of 2013

  • Photograph: Sue Kessler

    10. RoosevElvis

    A shy, Presley-loving Midwestern lesbian took a road trip to Graceland, with an imaginary drag-king Teddy Roosevelt by her side, in the TEAM’s offbeat and on-target exploration of American daring and loneliness. Rachel Chavkin’s multimedia staging grounded the piece in a soul-dulling world of meat factories and hotel rooms even as performers Libby King and Kristen Sieh took off on flights of wildly original comedy, set in marked counterpoint with melancholy.

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    9. Fun Home

    Drawn from Alison Bechdel’s illustrated memoir, Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori’s moving new musical intertwined the stories of the lesbian cartoonist’s emerging queer identity and her closeted gay father’s suffocated life as a small-town family man and funeral-home director. Three actors (Sydney Lucas, Alexandra Socha and Beth Malone) played Bechdel at different ages; Broadway VIPs Michael Cerveris and Judy Kuhn were her troubled parents. Directed by Sam Gold, the piece offered a nuanced and evocative portrait of lives spent fitting in or breaking out of boxes.

  • Photograph: Alex Fabozzi

    8. Grimly Handsome

    Slavic Christmas-tree salesmen, a lonesome woman, police detectives and a band of red pandas at large in the city: These were the principal figures in Julia Jarcho’s experimental crime thriller, a tripartite investigation into the nature of violence and the violence of nature. Skillfully performed by Pete Simpson, Ben Williams and Jenny Seastone Stern as part of Incubator Arts Project’s Other Forces festival, the piece was enigmatic but wittily precise. It was a pleasure to follow Jarcho around each bend of her dark imagination.

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    7. Here Lies Love

    Written by pop whizzes David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, this biomusical about Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos literally kept the audience on its feet at all times. Staged for maximum dynamism by Alex Timbers—with Ruthie Ann Miles and Jose Llana as Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos, and Conrad Ricamora as the third side of their political-romantic triangle—the show transformed its Public Theater venue into a shifting disco, in which the audience danced along to Marcos’s rise from ambitious local beauty to adjunct dictator and international sybarite. But as in Timbers’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, the fun gave way to a final twist of fatality.

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    6. Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play

    Where would America be without its power? In a Caryl Churchill–esque feat of dramatic audacity, Anne Washburn imagined three stages of a post-apocalyptic cultural landscape, in which painstakingly reconstituted memories of old Simpsons episodes and other cultural artifacts evolve, with the passage of time, into an elaborate archetypal pageant. With a crackerjack ensemble cast directed by Steve Cosson (of the Civilians), this high-concept play—at once ominous and goofily funny—infused the stage with energy.

  • Photograph: Michael J. Lutch

    5. The Glass Menagerie

    Director John Tiffany’s bold, expressionistic rendering of Tennessee Williams’s 1944 breakthrough drama dispensed with the sentimentality that sometimes freights this memory play, and replaced it with a clear-eyed sense of protective self-deception at continual risk of puncture from regret. The supreme Cherry Jones played the classic smother mother Amanda Wingfield as a steely magnolia whose desperate delusions are based in a fearful reality; Zachary Quinto’s hardened Tom, Celia Keenan-Bolger’s wounded Laura and Brian J. Smith’s poignantly conflicted Jim helped make it a play to remember.

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    4. The Assembled Parties

    Richard Greenberg’s elegant, literate drama was not the year’s flashiest new play, but its lovely craftsmanship and masterful deployment of language gave it a grace that floats and lingers. Without tripping into nostalgia, Greenberg and Manhattan Theatre Club director Lynne Meadow painted a layered and evocatively chipped picture of Upper West Side fineness in decline, leavened with epigrams and darkened by gentle irony. Jessica Hecht, as a paragon of determined whimsy, gave one of 2013’s most beguiling performances, buttressed by Judith Light as her embittered sister-in-law and Jeremy Shamos as her worshipful surrogate son.

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    3. Pippin

    It took 40 years, but Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson’s musical parable of self-definition finally emerged from the shadow of Bob Fosse’s brilliant original Broadway version (without exorcising Fosse’s slinky spirit entirely) in Diane Paulus’s spectacular circus-themed revival. With a strong hand from Gypsy Snider, of the neocirque troupe Les 7 Doigts de La Main—and snazzy turns by Patina Miller as the seductive Leading Player, Matthew James Thomas as the lost leading man, Andrea Martin as a limber granny and the sublime Rachel Bay Jones as a heart-strong widow—this resplendent show had magic to do, and did it.

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    2. Twelfth Night

    This year was stuffed to surfeit with Shakespeare, from the excellent (Theatre for a New Audience’s one-two punch of Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream) to the disappointing (Broadway’s Romeo and Juliet, Lincoln Center’s Macbeth). But no production captured the magic of the old text as divinely as this all-male, “original practices” English import directed by Tim Carroll. Especially bewitching were the leading ladies: not just the ice-and-fire Olivia of Mark Rylance—from whom we have come to expect such miracles—but the touching Viola of Samuel Barnett and the magnetic Maria of Paul Chahidi.

  • Photograph: Carol Rosegg

    1. Good Person of Szechwan

    It was a stroke of genius to cast Taylor Mac, a dramatic renegade who delights in dismantling binaries, as the divided heroine/antihero of Bertolt Brecht’s 1943 epic, a fable that resolutely refuses to offer the comfort of a moral. And Lear deBessonet’s staging for the Foundry Theatre (at La MaMa in February, then as part of the Public’s exceptional fall lineup) backed him up with a zestful, modern-minded and pretension-dissolving production that sugared Brecht’s medicine with ample theatrical charm.

Photograph: Sue Kessler

10. RoosevElvis

A shy, Presley-loving Midwestern lesbian took a road trip to Graceland, with an imaginary drag-king Teddy Roosevelt by her side, in the TEAM’s offbeat and on-target exploration of American daring and loneliness. Rachel Chavkin’s multimedia staging grounded the piece in a soul-dulling world of meat factories and hotel rooms even as performers Libby King and Kristen Sieh took off on flights of wildly original comedy, set in marked counterpoint with melancholy.

Adam Feldman's worst shows of 2013

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany's Photograph: Nathan Johnson

1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

And I said, “What about Breakfast at Tiffany’s?”
She said, “I think I remember the play,
And as I recall, I think, nobody liked it.”
And I said, “Well, that’s because it was a painfully stagnant adaptation of beloved material with an inexperienced and utterly lost young actress in the iconic central role.”

Bunty Berman Presents…

Bunty Berman Presents… Photograph: Monique Carboni

2. Bunty Berman Presents…

Boo, nay for Bollywood.


Adam Feldman's dishonorable mentions of 2013

Einstein, Jekyll & Hyde, Venice

  1. Intro
  2. David Cote's best of 2013
  3. Adam Feldman's best of 2013


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1 comments
Trish Giordano
Trish Giordano

The Commons of Pensacola: Blythe Danner divine, Sarah Jessica Parker amazing (such emoting, raw and real); Adam Feldman, what play did you see and review? Certainly not this one!

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