Torn Tickets: Part One

Reviewing 2018’s best plays in the North Bay

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Joe Winkler, center, devastated audiences with his portrayal of Willy Loman in the Novato Theatre Company’s 2018 production of ‘Death of a Salesman.’

’Tis the time for “Best of” lists, so in the spirit of my illustrious predecessor and with a nod to the substantial differences in mounting a musical versus a play, here are my top torn tickets of 2018, Part One, the Plays (in alphabetical order):

‘Blackbird’ (Main Stage West) As dark subject matter goes, this look at a pedophile and his victim is as unsettling a piece of theater as I’ve seen. Under David Lear’s direction, Sharia Pierce and John Shillington acted the hell out of David Harrower’s script that raised a lot of really uncomfortable questions and provided no answers.

‘Buried Child’ (Main Stage West) Elizabeth Craven’s direction of Sam Shepard’s nightmarish look at the crumbling American dream found the right balance between the real and the surreal in this dark, funny, disturbing and heartbreaking show.

‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ (Spreckels Theatre Company) Elijah Pinkham’s revelatory performance as a 15-year-old with an Asperger’s/autism-like condition on a journey of self-discovery was the centerpiece of this Elizabeth Craven-directed production.

‘Death of a Salesman’ (Novato Theatre Company; 6th Street Playhouse) It’s a critic’s burden to have to see multiple productions of the same piece within weeks or months of each other, and it’s rare when both productions are superb. Each production had its own strengths and weaknesses, but both had towering lead performances. Joe Winkler (NTC) and Charles Siebert’s takes on Willy Loman were utterly different and totally devastating.

‘Equus’ (6th Street Playhouse) Peter Shaffer’s 1973 play about a boy and his horse was such a left-field choice for 6th Street to produce that I really didn’t know what to expect. That this very difficult play turned out to be one of the North Bay’s best 2018 productions is a credit to director Lennie Dean and an outstanding ensemble.

‘The Great God Pan’ (Cinnabar Theater) A terrific combination of script, performance and technical and design craft under the direction of Taylor Korobow made this rumination on recovered memory unforgettable.

‘Oslo’ (Marin Theatre Company) While the Oslo Accords have been deemed a failure, MTC’s excellent production of the J. T. Rogers drama about the negotiations that led to them reminded us that humanity is too often the missing element in politics today.

Next week: Top Torn Tickets, the Musicals!

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