Curtain Call names the top 10 Equity shows of 2019
There is no question about it. Connecticut’s Equity theater in 2019 was terrific. Everything from comedies to dramas and musicals graced these theaters with many making it to the top of the year in review. Here are the top 10 productions that really won audiences over, with my original comments about them. Please note they are not in any particular order, but represent the top 10.
1. “The Engagement Party” - Hartford Stage, Hartford: Directed by Darko Tresnjak, former artistic director of Hartford Stage, this play asked how much do you trust your friends and family? Playwright Baum hits all the vital tension spots as the guests reveal more than their occupations. Suspicion runs rampant as something that is missing must be found.
2. “Austen’s Pride: A New Musical of Pride and Prejudice” - ACT of Connecticut, Ridgefield: For this Connecticut premiere, critics were asked not to review the show. However, it was so wonderful that if I could have reviewed it, I would have said that it was sensational. The music, the dance — all of it was splendid.
3. “George and Gracie Part II”- Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury: “Laugh out loud comedy without sex and politics. You couldn’t ask for a better couple of outstanding comic actors to step into the roles of legendary comedians George Burns and Gracie Allen. Semina De Laurentis, the artistic director of Seven Angels Theatre, and R. Bruce Connelly reprise their roles.
4. “A Doll House, Part 2” - TheaterWorks, Hartford: Knock, knock. Who’s there? It’s Nora — and she’s back! When Ibsen first presented his play “A Doll House” in Denmark in 1879, it was not met with applause but with protests. The audience was appalled that a wife, Nora, would walk out on her husband and her children. Nora is now a self-made woman and she is proud of it.
5. “An Iliad” - Long Wharf, New Haven: One of the most riveting anti-war stories told by Rachel Christopher, an actress storyteller of the first degree. This show is new and ancient simultaneously.
6. “A Doll’s House, Part 2” - Long Wharf, New Haven: The same script word for word is not a guarantee that you are going to see the same production if there are two different directors at two different theaters doing the same show. The Long Wharf production is so different that it will blow you away.
7. “Cry It Out” - Thrown Stone Theatre Company, Ridgefield: There’s a lot to laugh about and just as much to cry about in what at first glance looks like a tribute to new mothers. In actuality, the playwright has so well crafted the absent characters in this play that it quickly becomes obvious that fathers, grandparents and family all face challenging issues when that package of joy enters the home.
8. “On the Grounds of Belonging” - Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven: Long Wharf’s transformation begins with its new artistic director at the helm in this story of race and two star-crossed lovers.
9. “Georgia McBride” - Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury: It’s not the usual comedy, drama, or musical. It’s not as safe as a Neil Simon comedy. It is a rare and wonderful cutting-edge musical that tickles the funny bone while touching your heart.
10. “Little Shop of Horrors”- ACT of Connecticut, Ridgefield: It is not like any other “Little Shop” you’ve ever seen. For starters, this one features a set that is so amazing that it deserves its own curtain call. No other theater has ever created a set like this. The famous Mushnik Flower Shop is center stage, but this center stage rotates.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.