'Tis the season for lists, round-ups and starting blog posts with the words "'tis the season". I've already written about the theatrical year in review and my five favourite new Canadian plays (scroll down). But because we have 10 fingers and 10 toes, we must also make lists of 10 - so here are my 10 favourite productions of 2009 in no particular order:
West Side Story at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ont.
Why? Gary Griffin's and Sergio Trujillo's energetic direction and choreography, respectively, and a top-notch leading couple: Paul Nolan and Chilina Kennedy.
The Clockmaker at Alberta Theatre Projects in Calgary
Why? Clever script by Stephen Massicotte and impeccable direction by Bob White with a great central offbeat performance from Christian Goutsis.
Billy Bishop Goes to War at Soulpepper in Toronto
Why? Great revival of a great show with Eric Peterson in fine form. This is the only time I've ever seen a production get full-star reviews from every critic in Toronto.
The Blue Dragon at the NAC in Ottawa
Why? A deceptively simply story of two Quebecois lost and found in China, ingeniously told. In truth, I think Robert Lepage works more magic in his polished two-hour plays than in sprawling nine-hour epics like Lipsynch (which almost made it on this list).
August: Osage County at the Canon Theatre in Toronto
Why? Thanks to Mirvish for bringing us the Steppenwolf ensemble's tour of this wickedly funny Pulitzer winner by Tracy Letts. I can no longer eat sushi without, at some point, shouting: "Eat the fish, bitch!"
The Madonna Painter at Factory Theatre in Toronto
Why? The chilling climax of Michel Marc Bouchard's play left me absolutely speechless.
Three Sisters at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ont.
Why? That steamy scene between Tom McCamus as Vershinin and Lucy Peacock as Masha, where they make love with words from across a room. Whew!
Loot at Soulpepper
Why? Michael Hanrahan and Oliver Dennis were brilliantly funny in Jim Warren's surefooted production of Joe Orton's 1965 farce.
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at the Fermenting Cellar in Toronto
Why? This Birdland Theatre production was technically a remount, but a) most of the cast changed and b) I didn't see it the first time around, so it makes the list. An ambitious, super-sized play full of big ideas and big performances and fearlessly directed by David Ferry.
The Silicone Diaries/Zona Pellucida at Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto
Why? Two gender-bending shows that left me completely disoriented. What an adventure it can be to go to Buddies.
Bioboxes at The Theatre Centre in Toronto
Why? For all the reasons outlined in my year in review article.
Post-script: Sharp-eyed readers will realise that was actually 12, not 10, and I'm trying hard not to list more. It goes without saying, of course, that this list is in no way definitive. It is solely based on the shows this one theatre critic saw (which is why it skews so heavily to Toronto and environs) and only included those he saw within Canada.
(My favourite shows abroad included Gina Gionfriddo's hilarious Becky Shaw, which I saw off-Broadway at Second Stage; Bartlett Sher's masterful revival of South Pacific at the Lincoln Centre, which I finally caught in March; and Pippo Delbono's La Menzogna, which was certainly the most audacious piece I saw this year at the Festival d'Avignon.)