5. FRESH FRUIT
New Trinity Repertory Company artistic director Curt Columbus introduced himself with a fleet staging of his own sharp, very American translation of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard that brought out the play’s farce as well as its pathos. It featured the splendid African-American actor Joe Wilson Jr. as Lopakin, a child of slaves who when he can’t bring the dying gentry to its senses turns their swan song into his gain.
6. INTO IRAQ
It’s a more relevant theater that offers insight into current events, as Zeitgeist Stage Company did with David Hare’s bristling account — part documentary, part conjecture — of the run-up to the Iraq war, Stuff Happens. Like the play, David J. Miller’s spare, intelligent production gained momentum as it went along. Looking at Iraq from the inside out, Lyric Stage Company of Boston offered 9 Parts of Desire, Heather Raffo’s collective portrait of nine Iraqi women played by one actor. Carmel O’Reilly’s fluid production brought out the ancient spirit embedded in the work, and Lanna Joffrey caught its lyrical rhythms.
7. MUSIC MEN
ART artistic director Robert Woodruff teamed with poet, composer, and performer Rinde Eckert to create in Orpheus X a flowing, affecting riff on the Orpheus myth in which Eurydice was more than just romantic chattel to be carried off to Hell and not brought back again. And long-time local jazz man Stan Strickland teamed with writer/director Jon Lipsky on Coming Up for Air — An Autojazzography, an 80-minute rhythmic odyssey that displayed Strickland not just as a player of instruments but as an instrument in his own right.
8. RISKY BUSINESS
The Huntington Theatre Company both put its money where its new-play mouth is and channeled vintage Mamet in a crackling world-premiere staging of Theresa Rebeck’s Mauritius, which is set in the seedy, high-stakes world of stamp brokering. This show made philately seem almost as exciting as what it sounds like, and that activity’s nothing to the sexual practice at the heart of Edward Albee’s The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?, which does indeed involve a liaison with livestock. Spiro Veloudos’s production for Lyric Stage Company of Boston brought out the wit and the anguish lurking beneath the perversity.
9. CASTING A SPELL
CASTING A SPELL: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Wilbur
It was wonderful to see the Wilbur Theatre get a renewed lease on life in producer Jon Platt’s importation of the delightful William Finn musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, with its winning blend of hilarity, pathos, education, and the Theatre of Cruelty. An enactment of the fictional event of the title, in which phonetically gifted pre-adolescents grapple with the orthographic likes of “phylactery,” the show boasts a bouncy, complicated score and audience interaction that isn’t awful.
10. KNIGHT MOVES
Broadway Across America/Boston brightened up spring with the Tony-winning Monty Python’s Spamalot, which strewed the stage with the banana peel of Arthurian legend. Sketch comedy dressed up in choreography and cartoon scenery doesn’t get more inspired than this. Recycling the movies on a smaller scale was the whimsical yet poetic Samurai 7.0: Under Construction, whose down-at-the-heels Japanese knights were borrowed by Beau Jest Moving Theater from Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Davis Robinson’s nimble troupe told the film’s story simply, eschewing overblown staging for sticks, screens, and shadow puppetry, proving that less can be more.