Despite moans about the decline of Canadian theatre, it was a strong year for new scripts. Seven of our top 10 shows were premieres. Keep in mind that you can catch two of them - Leo, and a revised version of Revisited - in the next few months. You have no excuse this time.
1 A BEAUTIFUL VIEW (da da kamera/Buddies, May 9-21)
A fitting finale to the 20 years of splendid, boundary-pushing work by da da kamera , A Beautiful View asked how two seemingly mismatched partners ( Tracy Wright and Caroline Gillis ) kept ending up in each other's lives. A moving, funny, nuanced script and precise direction by Daniel MacIvor never stressed the obvious and kept us on the edge of our seats.
2 THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG (Canadian Opera Company, September 12-October 1)
You could rebuild Valhalla with all the press about the COC's Wagner cycle, which included some last-minute casting changes. But the shows all 15 hours' worth went on, and thousands of lucky patrons broke in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts while witnessing the cathartic destruction of the gods. Conductor Richard Bradshaw and cycle designer Michael Levine have now become the city's unofficial arts deities.
3 GOREY STORY (Thistle Project, October 29-November 30)
Thistle Project , a young troupe with energy to spare, offered a terrific debut with their intensely physical, visually beguiling adaptation of an alphabet book by master of the macabre Edward Gorey . Its 26 episodes, involving doomed, parentally deprived adolescents, were held together by the deathlike presence of Ginette Mohr , whose twitching, grasping claws never rested.
4 AUTOSHOW (Convergence Theatre Collective, July 6-16)
Convergence Theatre roared to the top of the Fringe with AutoShow, a walkabout site-specific piece by seven playwrights in which the audience became buyers and also voyeurs in an exclusive car showroom. Not all the pieces were equally streamlined, but the exhilarating production and sharp performances delivered a smooth ride.
5 REVISITED (2b theatre, January 31-February 4)
The Halifax-based company's adaptation of Our Town , part of the Free Fall festival, distilled the essence of Thornton Wilder 's comic/tragic view of human existence with two actors and a small audience sitting around a table; we all became the residents of Wilder's wholesome American town. Light, luminescent and the stuff of theatrical memories.
6 MEDICI SLOT MACHINE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOSEPH CORNELL (Pea Green, May 5-21)
Based on the life and collage boxes of eccentric American artist Joseph Cornell , Mark Brownell 's incisive, funny script, given great energy by the cast and director Sue Miner , was anchored by James Kirchner 's performance as Cornell, a lanky dreamer who saw his art as a way to capture eternity in a wooden box.
7 LEO (Tarragon, February 9-March 19)
Rosa Laborde 's sharp-edged, moving triangle of a play involves three Chilean teens exploring friendship, sex and politics under the liberating Allende regime and later Pinochet's dictatorship. Richard Rose 's taut production, featuring Salvatore Antonio , Cara Pifko and Sergio Di Zio , drew us into the characters' world and the sometimes chilling life choices that shaped their destinies.
8 THE REAL McCOY (Factory, February 2-26)
Andrew Moodie expanded his playwriting palette in this informative, fun and moving look at the life and work of Elijah McCoy ( Maurice Dean Wint ), the brilliant African-Canadian inventor behind the famous expression. An inspired cast, led by the energetic and authoritative Wint, brought the times to vivid life and proved again that real people dealing with social issues can make inspiring drama.
9 THE MAGIC FIRE (Shaw Festival, June 11-October 8)
Nothing showed the power of the Shaw Festival ensemble like director Jackie Maxwell 's production of Lillian Groag 's The Magic Fire, set in Peronist Argentina and focusing on a family of opera-loving European immigrants who ignore, at their peril, the swelling politics outside their living room window. A memory play so rich that it encouraged multiple viewings, the work glowed with a dozen fine performances.
10 THE REAL THING (Soulpepper, June 10-July 29)
Tom Stoppard 's always been a clever playwright, and this work - one of his best - provides a very funny postmodern look at adultery among the London literati. But director Diana Leblanc revealed the hearts and yearnings beating beneath those brittle jokes and po-mo tricks. Superb performances by Albert Schultz and Megan Follows (not a trace of Anne Of Green Gables) didn't hurt either.
Insomnia; Here Lies Henry
A Number; Hana's Suitcase; The Babysitter; Mercedes; Cringeworthy; Tiny Dynamite; Terror; Seussical; 4.48 Psychosis; Ghosts; Nor The Cavaliers Who Come With Us; The Russian Play; The Eleventh David; You Fancy Yourself; Legoland; Invisible Atom; The Unfortunate Misadventures Of Masha Galinski
Toronto ain't Timmins. Please, stop forcing fifth-rate productions from touring companies on us. Pippin and Legends were some of the worst theatre of the year.
And Hair , which wasn't a touring show, needed a severe trim and restyling. The 1960s weren't as boring as this.