Amber Devlin and Jessica Cavanagh in <em>\'night, Mother</em>&nbsp;at Echo Theatre

2016 in Review: Theater, Part 3

Janice L. Franklin, the newest critic in TheaterJones' stable, picks her five favorite productions of 2016.

published Saturday, December 31, 2016

Photo: Karen Almond
Jenny Ledel and Ian Ferguson in A Kid Like Jake at Second Thought Theatre


As I look back over my list of shows seen in 2016—my first full year as a contributor to TheaterJones—there are five that I remember very clearly, and will remember years from now. They are:


1. ’night, Mother, Echo Theatre at the Bath House Cultural Center (September)

Just thinking about those performances from Amber Devlin and Jessica Cavanagh leaves me exhausted. Christie Vela’s production of Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize winner was masterful. One of the few times in my life when I was not able to immediately stand up and exit the space. And to look around and see that I was not alone, I'm not sure I've had that experience before.


2. A Kid Like Jake, Second Thought Theatre Company at Bryant Hall (July)

Photo: Thomas Escobar
Janielle Kastner, playwright of Ophelia Underwater

Good choices here regarding how to unpack and roll out a story in Daniel Pearle's play. Playing the mother of the title, unseen character whose gender identity is in question, Jenny Ledel threaded the needle. Her situation was sympathetic but she was not because her neurosis got in the way. At the same time, we wanted that family to win. The ensemble work—Ian Ferguson, Christie Vela, Kia Boyer—was strong as well.


3.  The King's Face, Shakespeare Dallas at WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival (March)

Steven Young’s play is very well-written and fully fleshed out. The actors' performances were solid. It was what I always describe as “pure theater”: Minimalistic, clean, smart, efficient, and artistic. The lighting was terrific too; I still remember every detail.


4. Ophelia Underwater, The Tribe at Margo Jones Theatre (May)

Of the new plays I saw this year, I would most like to see more from this playwright, Janielle Kastner. Loved this one-woman play (featuring Zoe Kerr) about slut-shaming and using the character from Shakespeare's greatest play. (Ophelia will be revived by L.I.P. Service in 2017.)


5. Bootycandy, Stage West (August)

This production of Robert O’Hara’s collection of vignettes showed how important the selection of a director can be. Akín Babatundé took a script that on the page presents challenges that can keep some production companies and directors away, and made it understandable and palatable for a general audience. Neither a small nor easy task. It was a riot, too.




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2016 in Review: Theater, Part 3
Janice L. Franklin, the newest critic in TheaterJones' stable, picks her five favorite productions of 2016.
by Janice L. Franklin

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