The best (and worst) of 2007

camp in wheelchair
KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY Deanna Dunagan, right, offers some motherly advice in August: Osage County.

Photograph: Joan Marcus

* Still playing


Chosen by: David Cote, theater editor

1 August: Osage County*
For his fiendishly funny dysfunctional-family saga, Tracy Letts crafted an addictive mix of witty eloquence and droll-sick shocks. Full Review

2 Black Watch
With its nonstop theatrical bravura and searing topicality, this dynamic Scottish war drama had us ready to go over the top. Full Review

3 The Overwhelming*
Political playwright J.T. Rogers established himself with this searching, terrifying snapshot of Rwanda on the brink of genocide, seen through American eyes. Full Review

4 God’s Ear
Downtown formalism met living-room tragedy in Jenny Schwartz’s exceptional portrait of death and the family; Anne Kauffman’s staging tapped its linguistic power. Full Review

5 Blackbird
Pedophilia was (sorta) the theme of this shattering two-person drama by David Harrower, along with memory, sexuality and power. Full Review

6 The Receptionist*
Jayne Houdyshell anchored Adam Bock’s quirky-creepy thriller, which somehow married petty office politics to the war on terror. Full Review

7 Ode to the Man Who Kneels
Richard Maxwell went into darker, weirder places with his writing in this expressionistic heartbreaker about the violent Old West. Full Review

8 1001
Jason Grote wrapped tales within yarns and tucked them inside epics for this explosive, often brilliant work about America, narrative, the Middle East and identity. Full Review

9 The Coast of Utopia
Simultaneously tedious and brilliant, Tom Stoppard’s well-researched trilogy of pre-Revolutionary Russian thinkers was the high-art stage event of the year. Full Review

10 The Misanthrope
Ivo van Hove was up to his old tricks—food fights, hysterical acting and live projected video—with this brazen take on Molière’s farce. Full Review

NEXT: Adam Feldman's picks

Chosen by: Adam Feldman, theater writer

1 August: Osage County*
Letts’s boldly expansive, bitingly funny prairie dogfight brings the great American domestic drama thrillingly up to date. Full Review

2 Rock ’n’ Roll*
Tom Stoppard patrols the beat of history in this dazzling look at the quickening tempo of change. Full Review

3 Iphigenia 2.0
Modern mass-culture went to ancient war—with chilling results—in Charles Mee’s dynamic collage of senselessness and sacrifice. Full Review

4 The Receptionist*
Evil got a corporate overhaul in Bock’s brilliantly sneaky neo–Twilight Zone fable about the wages of evasion. Full Review

5 The Fever
The insidious Wallace Shawn toured the ugly costs of our niceties in this sobering, soul-sick monologue. Full Review

6 The Coast of Utopia
Idealism was tossed on the frothing waves of history in Stoppard’s oceanic epic of 19th-century thought. Full Review

7 100 Saints You Should Know
Kate Fodor’s achingly truthful drama discerned the faint outlines of hope in a universe of lost connections. Full Review

8 Oh, the Humanity and other exclamations
Will Eno sliced into life and its disappointments in this razor-tipped quintet of existential playlets. Full Review

9 1001
With brave, smart strokes, Grote pulled the orientalist rug out from under the conflict between West and Middle East. Full Review

10 Dividing the Estate
Cupidity’s arrow struck deep in the heart of Texas in Horton Foote’s beautifully nuanced family drama. Full Review

NEXT: Helen Shaw's picks

Chosen by: Helen Shaw, theater writer

The Argument
David Greenspan delivered his adaptation of Aristotle’s Poetics like a preacher talking to God—intimate, loving and slightly disappointed. Full Review

Coram Boy
New York proved crueler than any baby-killing orphanmonger by cutting short the run of director Melly Still’s passionate, artful production of Jamila Gavin’s neogothic novel. Full Review

Drum of the Waves of Horikawa
Brendan Connelly clobbered our brains into submission with his virtuosic black-metal score, leaving us defenseless before Brooke O’Harra’s punked-out Kabuki. Full Review

God’s Ear
Christina Kirk and Gibson Frazier were heaven-sent in this strange, surreally beautiful portrait of a grieving family by playwriting’s great new hope, Jenny Schwartz. Full Review

Three hours were too few to spend with Polish company TR Warszawa and director Krzysztof Warlikowski, whose meticulous production was a primer in modern stage aesthetics.

No Dice*
Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper’s paean to everyday talk (four hours of recorded, verbatim conversations) confronts us with the awful sweetness of what we all actually talk about. Full Review

The Oresteia
David Johnston’s hilarious spoof on everybody’s favorite matricide was an embarrassment of riches—crackerjack actors, Aeschylus-based humor and goofy sight gags. Full Review

Particularly in the Heartland
Rachel Chavkin’s collective, the TEAM, refused to hit below the Grain Belt in this whimsical portrait of Rapture-hungry Midwest kids. Full Review

The Fall and Rise of the Rising Fallen
The zanies of Banana Bag & Bodice made a surprisingly convincing rock band, but writer (and rookie bassist) Jason Craig’s darkly elliptical texts were the undeniable backbeat. Full Review

A tip-top cast (including Susan Lynch and Alan Cox) spoke the speech rippingly in Brian Friel’s wistful, classic masterwork. Full Review

Un hombre que se ahoga
Argentine director Daniel Veronese swapped all the gender roles in Three Sisters, a surface gesture that paradoxically uncovered Chekhov’s deepest, most lacerating intentions.

Honorable mentions: Church, Journey’s End, Lulu,The Merchant of Venice, Must Don’t Whip ’Um, Peter and Jerry*, Philoktetes, The Seafarer* and Xanadu*

NEXT: The Worst and Report Card

camp in wheelchair
VOICES IN MY HEAD Anne Gridley grimaces through the cleverly experimental No Dice.

Photograph: Joan Marcus


Chosen by: David Cote, theater editor

1 The Pirate Queen
Wet and wildly bad, this dinghy sprang a leak with its first overblown notes. Full Review

2 Walmartopia
Wal-Mart has nothing to fear from this lamebrain musical satire. Full Review

Chosen by: Adam Feldman, theater writer

1 Grease
Grease is the turd. Full Review

2 The Pirate Queen
Argh! Thar she blows! This watery extravaganza lost its heroine in a sea of historical Irish kitsch. Full Review

3 Young Frankenstein
For this they want $450? Mel Brooks’s shanda of a score is like the world’s most meager gherkin on the world’s fanciest plate. Full Review

Chosen by: Helen Shaw, theater writer

De Monstruos y Prodigios: La Historia de los Castrati
Claudio Valdés Kuri’s pseudoexpressionist portrait of castrati singers lacked any whisper of craft or—crucially—balls.

King Lear
’Twas the year for underwhelming portraits of the gray king (hi, Ian McKellen!), but Kevin Kline’s insultingly phoned-in snooze at the Public Theater bottomed the list. Full Review

Report card: It was an amazing fall season for new plays on Broadway and Off (not all of them from the U.K.), and a merciful minimum of brainless megamusicals such as Legally Blonde. And while it’s a given that New York Theatre Workshop, St. Ann’s Warehouse and Soho Rep will program the most exciting shows, our conservative and timid nonprofits—Manhattan Theatre Club, Lincoln Center Theater and the Roundabout Theatre Company—actually got behind politically meaty and formally daring work. Time will tell if 2007 was just a fluke, or if maybe producers are finally heeding our words.