This end-of-year list-making season, for the Globe and Mail, I put together an idiosyncratic top ten - strangest circus act, biggest Broadway bust, etc - and an article about the theatre newsmakers of 2012 (boards behaving badly).
But a few folks have asked me: OK, but what were your favourite shows of the year? So, here, on my semi-defunct personal blog, is my personal list - which includes shows I saw while off duty.
NB: In 2012, I saw theatre in Chicago, New York, Avignon, London, Montreal, Ottawa, Stratford, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Gananoque, Winnipeg, Calgary and Fredericton - but I spent most of my year in Toronto, so that's why it's so Torontocentric.
1. Maybe if You Choreograph Me, You'll Feel Better - at SummerWorks in Toronto
2. The Iceman Cometh - at Goodman Theatre in Chicago
I never got around to writing a review, but here's the Chicago Trib's rave. O'Neill is the greatest American playwright, and this is his greatest play. At least that's what I felt certain was the case when I came out of director Robert Falls' five-hour-ish, operatic production of The Iceman Cometh. The ensemble was to die for and included Brian Dennehy, Nathan Lane and the Stratford Festival's Stephen Ouimette (as if they own him; he is a natural resource owned by us all). Best of all was John Douglas Thompson as Joe Mott. Google just told me JDT is Canadian-American and grew up in Montreal - we gotta get him back here PRONTO.
3. The Matchmaker at the Stratford Festival
Happiest night at the theatre this year. Didn't sell super well, probably a bad idea to program in the Festival Theatre - I don't give a darn; so much joy.
4. Terminus - at SummerWorks, then at Mirvish
I enjoyed this verse thrill-ride at SummerWorks, and just as much at the Royal Alex as part of the inaugural Off-Mirvish season. Full review's here, but my SummerWorks tweet was more succinct: "It made me squirm, but held me firm, so sure as sure I'm gonna gush: See Terminus, you really must, a royal flush @SummerWus."
5. Home - at Soulpepper
The Crucible was fine, I guess, but I like Soulpepper best - nay, adore them - when they bring me a play I've never seen and may never see again and just kill it. Like they did with David Storey's 1970 play Home. An odd, endearing play that Andre Sills' cheeky chair-stealing moments pushed into my top ten. My colleague Martin Morrow gave it three stars; what can I say - life's a lottery.
6. An Enemy of the People - Festival d'Avignon
The great German director Thomas Ostermeier's rejig of Ibsen's ever-timely play had me from its hipster rendition of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy. But the scene where Stockmann is attacked with water balloons filled with paint was the stage image of the year for me. I've been saving all my love for when it comes to Canada to the Festival TransAmériques in Montreal - and maybe Quebec and maybe the NAC. This is an open secret, no?
7. The Golden Dragon - at Tarragon Theatre
I like my German theatre, I guess. Write me all the emails you like, Tarragon subscribers, this was great and Roland Schimmelpfennig's a brilliant writer for the theatre (not television, not the movies, not the web).
8. A Midsummer Night's Dream - Canadian Stage (in High Park)
I really wanted to be angry at Richard Rose this year after the whole Michael Healey/Proud thing, but the guy just kept facilitating or making good theatre. In addition to hiring Ross Manson to direct The Golden Dragon and Weyni Mengesha to direct The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs at Tarragon, he freelanced at Canadian Stage and made me love A Midsummer Night's Dream all over again. I wasn't the only one: it beat Shakespeare in High Park attendance records. Who knew there were still new things to do with the Mechanicals?
9. War Horse - at Mirvish
I saw War Horse in London a few years ago and loved it, so maybe I wasn't as enthusiastic as I could have been in my review on a second viewing. Ultimately, if you haven't seen these horse puppets in action, you must. They're just incredible and I don't even like animals all that much. There is still time!
10. Enron - at Theatre Calgary
Because we humans have ten fingers, this list is only going to ten. Don't blame me, blame evolution. Or God, if you like. Or both. Or thank them.
Anyway, if I had more fingers, or if I was just writing this on another day in another mood, I might write about The Arsonists at Canadian Stage, Les Femmes savantes at Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, Gruesome Playground Injuries at BirdLand, Kim's Convenience at Soulpepper, Crash at Theatre Passe Muraille, Caroline or Change at Acting Up, Little Iliad at World Stage, August: Osage County at Manitoba Theatre Centre, or Come Back, Little Sheba at the Shaw Festival. I might write about The Wooster Group's Vieux Carré or The Elevator Repair Service's Gatz, and you could say, "If you love Scott Shepherd so much, why don't you marry him?"
Anyway, I'm choosing Enron at Theatre Calgary because I thought the play was incredibly overrated when I saw it in London, then Antoni Cimolino's production made me think it was pretty smart stuff. His take was less stylish, but more substantive and better acted. I always like it when Canadians kick British butt on something, maybe just because sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I had stayed in London… Also, Graham Abbey was just super in it.