The 10 Best Plays I Saw in Metro Phoenix in 2012


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5. Theatre Artists Studio's The Unexpected Man
Not only was it an intellectual treat to see a less-frequently produced, earlier work by playwright-of-the-moment Yasmina Reza, this low-key, two-character charmer was polished up with a fabulous set and dynamite performances.

4. Stray Cat Theatre's Heddatron

Oh, hell, they had me at "a pregnant Michigan housewife is kidnapped by robots and made to perform Hedda Gabler with them in a South American jungle." But this production went far beyond its capsule description, wonderful and sufficient as that may seem. It's about the singularity, but it's about human yearning, too. And it's funny, to the extent that Ian Christensen as August Strindberg almost made me pee, and the show is nearly impossible to mount in the first place, but Ron May (again) and his merry band made it happen.

3. Nearly Naked Theatre and Phoenix Theatre's co-production of Spring Awakening
If this is what we get from co-production, let's have some more, please. Combining the iconoclasm of a smaller, younger company, whose audience is more hungry for mature themes and contemporary production elements, with the physical and marketing resources of a more established cultural institution (and everything else the very talented teams brought to the table) resulted in a well-crafted and popular run of the moving, Tony-winning musical. Mark 4man's band tied it all together with a gorgeous, tight rendition of Duncan Sheik's score.

2. Teatro Bravo!'s Lorca in a Green Dress

This was one of the clearest, most accessible treatments of Surrealism I've ever seen. The play's a symbolically defined meta-bio of a writer of similarly non-representative work, and Raymond King Shurtz directed a tireless, sassy cast in a visually and poetically rich production.

1. Actors Theatre's Dead Man's Cell Phone

Superb writing, acting, and design made this hard-to-pin-down comedy with serious themes a delight from beginning to end.

Honorable mentions: It took almost as long to painfully choose not to include Australia (Space 55), Rent (Desert Stages), and The 39 Steps (Arizona Theatre Company) in this list as it did to write the whole blog post.

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