The Best Theater of 2006

We say bravo to this year's greatest theatrical feats

Best new idea: Twenty theaters, from Arena Stage to Woolly Mammoth, offered free tickets to all comers for one night in October. The response was so great—more than 2,100 tickets were snapped up in less than half an hour—that the League of Washington Theatres hopes to make it an annual event. A terrific way to lure new playgoers and reward fans.

Best old idea: Ford’s Theatre producing director Paul Tetreault put the “theater” back into the historic venue with productions like Trying, a brilliant play about Franklin Roosevelt attorney general Francis Biddle. Ford’s has been known for old chestnuts—A Christmas Carol pays the bills—but it’s great to see productions that don’t cater just to school groups.

Best surprise: Andrew Long—known for brutal and brooding roles in plays like Macbeth and King Lear—turned out to be a terrific musical star as Fagin in Olney Theatre Center’s Oliver! and Henry Higgins in Signature Theatre’s My Fair Lady.

Bravest star turn: Kate Debelack bared more than her soul in Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig at Studio Theatre. Debelack defied stereotypes to create an unforgettable plus-size woman worth her weight in gold.

Best productions: Fat Pig at Studio and Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins at Signature. Studio didn’t pull punches with LaBute’s play about body image and love, and the result was shatteringly real. Signature artistic director Eric Schaeffer again proved to be the master interpreter of Sondheim’s most complex works—in this case, a musical about presidential assassins. Never have bad guys sounded so good.

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