1 The Overcoat
Canadian stage/Vancouver playhouse, February 17-march 18
every stitch was in place in this wordless adaptation of Gogol short stories, conceived and directed by Morris Panych and Wendy Gorling. As a nameless cog caught in a spinning tale of vanity and folly, the expressive Peter Anderson headed a huge cast of 22 in Ken Macdonald's mechanized universe of a set and moving to the mood-shifting music of Shostakovich. Theatre or dance? It didn't matter.
Ananke/Fringe, July 7-16
Ned Dickens wrote and directed this play as a birthday present for his daughter Risa Dickens, and in his firm grasp the Icarus story of pride and ambition became a moving parable about the importance of leaving the family nest. The strong text -- written entirely in verse -- came alive in Bruce Beaton's and Risa Dickens' performances, but the real joy came in seeing it performed outdoors, with wind, traffic and the sky itself contributing to the experience.
3 Building Jerusalem
Volcano/ Factory, January 7-29
conceived and directed by Ross Manson but scripted by Michael Redhill, this look at four real-life figures who mysteriously meet up on new year's eve 1899 was a brilliant examination of the social and intellectual ideas -- good, bad and in some cases murderous -- of the past century. With parlour games, songs and dance enhancing the themes and creating period-era ambience, the play satisfied on nearly every level.
Soulpepper, July 4-29
Who says great art has to be neat? Trimmed from five hours to three, Chekhov's messy early play about a cynical school teacher (Albert Schultz) and the quartet of women caught in his seductive/destructive orbit was filled with everything we love about late Chekhov: heartbreak, disillusionment and the knowledge that comedy is just a breath away from tragedy. The right play, the right moment, the right company.
5 The Offering
Moriah Productions/Ashkenaz, March 25-April 9
Anton Piatigorsky's most emotionally engaging script to date focused on three father-son stories from the bible's genesis, with Chris Abraham's stark production -- loved the knife and the old testament-meets-electronic-mixer soundscape -- underlining the universality of these stories about sacrifice and duty. Gary Reineke and Mark Ellis played the three sets of fathers and sons with lots of nuance, while Dean Gilmour's clown work contrasted well with the more serious goings-on.
6 The Far Side Of The Moon
Ex Machina/World Stage, April 19-23
Robert Lepage's linking of moon travel and sibling rivalry blasted off into otherworldly territory, with images of space and domesticity suffusing the three-hour epic. The script, by Lepage And Adam Nashman, left some emotional gaps, but few will forget the show's ghostly final moments, set in an airport waiting room and scored to Beethoven's moonlight sonata. No question. At his best, Lepage dreams wonderful dreams for us.
Nightwood, November 22-December 10
tough, darkly funny and poetic, Alex Bulmer's piece about a woman losing her sight proved a triumph of form and content. Short scenes and shadowy movement actually evoked the terror and newness of the central character's diminishing perspective. A moving tribute and farewell to one of the senses, it was all achieved without self-pity. With support from Kate Lynch and Sherry Lee Hunter, Diane Flacks delivered her most mature performance yet, proof that pr wasn't her fault.
8 The Lion King
Mirvish Productions, April 25-Still Running
Ok, Julie Taymor's already been celebrated to the african skies. But who else could have taken the ingredients of the tepid disney cartoon and made such a mouth-watering theatrical banquet? Don't moan about big budgets or the return of the mega-musical. There's nothing extraneous onstage, including the performances by deserved Dora Winner Jonathan Wilson and Richard Mcmillan. No, they aren't slumming.
9 Fiddler On The Roof
Stratford, June 2-November 4
Yes, we were verklempt. Director Susan H. Shulman's casting of uber-wasp Brent Carver made us re-examine the Jewish-themed musical, precisely the point of revivals. Stooped over and frail, with a tremulous voice to match, Carver's Tevye grudgingly gave away his daughters, and in so doing entered the new world. He was movingly supported by a fine cast that included Barbara Barsky, Tracy Michailidis and Michael Therriault.
10 The Oresteia
Royal National Theatre/World Stage, April 11-15
Aeschylus' tragic trilogy of vengeance and sacrifice doesn't get mounted often, so let's praise Zeus for Katie Mitchell's muscular production, which actually made the final play integral and not the anti-climax it seems on the page. The women outclassed the men -- especially Helen Shlesinger's Clytemnestra And Lilo Baur's Iphigenia/Electra -- but the real power came from Ted Hughes's earthy poetic translation.
Boxhead (Go Chicken Go); Sibs (Tarragon); Persee (Opera Atelier); Poochwater (Summerworks); Easy (Fringe); Berkoff's Women (World Stage)
Radio :30 (Night Kitchen); White Mice (Theatre Passe Muraille/Mammalian Diving Reflex); Glenn (Necessary Angel); Chekhov's Shorts (Theatre Smith-Gilmour/Factory) Perfect Pie Judith Thompson's crowd-pleaser about friendship was full of half-baked symbols and embarrassing city/country cliches. Sonja Smits, please stick with TV.
Worst of 2000
Outrageous hard to believe it took 10 years for Brad Fraser to create this bloated, unfocused musical inspired by the Craig Russell movie. Still, the show did make a bona fide star out of Thom Allison and his dimples.
Doubt here's proof that even with a strong company (theatre columbus), talented writer (michael redhill), good director (leah cherniak) and terrific cast (martha ross, chris earle, michael healey, waneta storms) you can still create a mess. gsmaybe it's the excitement and anxiety around entering a new era, but most of this year's best theatre and dance works addressed grand themes. They looked back in time, up into the sky or even out into the african grasslands. They dusted off old texts, putting a contemporary spin on them. Whether big or small, dealing with gods, animals or physical limitations, each work focused on the human element -- as only live theatre can do. * firstname.lastname@example.org
Maybe it's the excitement and anxiety around entering a new era, but most of this year's best theatre and dance works addressed grand themes. They looked back in time, up into the sky or even out into the African grasslands. They dusted off old texts, putting a contemporary spin on them. Whether big or small, dealing with gods, animals or physical limitations, each work focused on the human element -- as only live theatre can do.