Our Top 12 Plays From 2012

Because top ten lists are so last season.

By: Sophie Gilbert

It’s 12/12/12—what better time to throw off the shackles of a constraining year-end top-ten list and instead embrace a format that’s (slightly) more forgiving? After a year in which Kathleen Turner adopted a Texan accent, George Hamilton played it not-so-straight, Edward Gero painted hundreds of blood-red canvases in two minutes, and Basil Twist finally got his Washington close-up, all we can say is that this was a mighty hard compilation to pull together. Excuses aside, behold our list of the top 12 plays of 2012.

1) Black Watch The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart at Shakespeare Theatre
There’s little more we can say about Shakespeare Theatre’s efforts to bring the National Theatre of Scotland to Washington other than that we love it. From the “heartbreakingly compelling” Black Watch to the “beer-soaked, camaraderie-laden” Prudencia Hart, the company gave us two risky, creative, thought-provoking plays this year. Please come back again.

2) Red at Arena Stage
Great things can happen when two esteemed companies collaborate. Red, a production of John Logan’s Tony-winning play about Mark Rothko presented in conjunction with Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, was one of them.

3) Gidion’s Knot at the Contemporary American Theater Festival
The best play we saw at the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, Johnna Adams’s gripping tale of a mother facing up to her child’s isolation is one that will hopefully get staged in Washington sooner rather than later.

4) The Normal Heart at Arena Stage
Larry Kramer’s play, presented almost three decades after it was first staged in the midst of the AIDS crisis, is no less shocking and relevant today. George C. Wolfe’s production, starring Patrick Breen, Patricia Wettig, and Luke McFarlane, made for “unbelievably powerful theater.”

5) Really Really at Signature Theatre
Signature proved it has the chops for more than just musicals with this bleakly funny, caustic play about Generation Me, a world premiere by Paul Downs Colaizzo directed by Matthew Gardiner.

6) Astro Boy and the God of Comics at Studio Theatre
Described as a “high/low-tech multimedia extravaganza,” Natsu Onoda Power’s ingenious riff on the world of Japanese manga comics brought “gobs of energy and wit to an unusual enterprise.”

7) The Animals and Children Took to the Streets at Studio Theatre
One of the most creative of the season, this fusion of theater and animation from London’s 1927 was a “gorgeous, sugar-spun concoction” that combined the best of P.L. Travers, Amélie, and Edward Gorey.

8) Mr Burns, a Post-Electric Play at Woolly Mammoth
A play about the Simpsons in a post-apocalyptic world might sound like something the Woolly team dreamed up after one too many shots of mezcal, but this world premiere of Anne Washburn’s play was funny, hopeful, and brilliantly acted.

9) Ah, Wilderness at Arena Stage / Strange Interlude at Shakespeare Theatre
The 2012 Eugene O’Neill Festival gave audiences the chance to see a good number of the playwright’s works, including the gentle, sweetly innocent Ah, Wilderness, and Michael Kahn’s mercifully pared-down production of Strange Interlude.

10) Basil Twist Festival
Whether it was Arias With a Twist at Woolly Mammoth or Petrushka at Shakespeare, puppeteer Basil Twist showcased his mind-bending, deeply theatrical style this spring.

11) Our Class at Theater J
A three-hour play about a hideous crime against humanity is an intimidating task for any director. Derek Goldman’s production, with a sterling ensemble cast and deceptively simple design elements, made this one of the best plays of the season.

12) The Illusion at Forum Theatre
This Mitchell Hébert-directed production of Tony Kushner’s 1988 play was a “dazzling, discomfiting” spectacle and a testament to the actor and director’s multiple skills.

What shows did you love this year? Let us know in the comments.