10. Faust, Minnesota Opera
Proving that bigger is occasionally better, the Minnesota Opera eschewed the dank minimalism so much in vogue these days in favor of a lavish--and lovely--reshaping of Charles Gounod's Faust. If nothing else, it ought to leave fans salivating for another rare gem, this season's Semiramide.
9. The Magic Fire, Guthrie Theater
It is certainly no coincidence that the Guthrie's most provocative offering in 1999 was also the only new play of its season (discounting Martin Guerre, which was only a Guthrie production inasmuch as it took place at the Guthrie).
8. Two Weeks With the Queen, Illusion Theater
Although Robert Hartmann and Peter Rothstein's musical (adapted from a book by Morris Gleitzman), got only a rough staging in Illusion's Fresh Ink Series, their play was anything but. It is a rare thing, indeed, to see a children's story that is affecting without being affected.
7. Iphigenia and Other Daughters, Hidden Theatre
Possibly the most underrated production of the year, Annelise Christ's staging of Ellen McLaughlin's Oresteia cycle wove its Spartan spell from staccato dialogue and chillingly stark tableaux.
6. The Gods Are Thirsty, Mary Worth Theatre Company
Stephen Cartmell gave an inspired performance as the fallen priest at the center of Mary Worth's epic retelling of the French Revolution. His work and director Joel Sass's vibrant staging were enough to turn a slightly talky script into a feverish vision.
15 Head has never shied from a challenge. From this incorrigible Pirandello script, director Greg Smucker and the preternaturally talented design team of Joe Stanley and Mary Anna Culligan managed to weave a wildly imaginative fantasia.
4. Blues for an Alabama Sky, Penumbra Theatre
Penumbra's staging of Pearl Cleage's bittersweet drama benefited immeasurably from the exquisite performance of Marie-Françoise Theodore in the lead role. Theodore, in turn, benefited immeasurably from an inspired ensemble cast including Djola Branner, James Craven, Austene Van Williams-Clark, and Lester Purry.
3. The Threepenny Opera, Frank Theatre
A standout cast including Steve Hendrickson and Heidi Fellner turned Wendy Knox's staging of Brecht's masterpiece into an artful meditation on greed, capitalism, and sin. The bait-and-switch finale, in which an enormous Trojan horse appeared out of the Southern Theater's cramped wings, was a moment of indelible theatricality.
2. Lobster Alice, Jungle Theater
It was wonderful enough that two local playwrights found a home for their work this year through the Jungle's new play series. That Kira Obolensky's wry and literate meditation on the intersection of desire and imagination also found a cast worthy of the challenge made Lobster Alice this year's breakthrough.
1. The Golem, Theatre de la Jeune Lune
The pleasures of Jeune Lune's quiet, uncompromising tale of exodus were many: Michael Sommers's poetic puppetry, the serio-comic shenanigans of Vincent Gracieux and Sarah Agnew, and the spare staging of Robert Rosen. From silence and shadow, Jeune Lune molded both a celebration of community and a solemn invocation of the enduring power of stories.
Mentioned With Honor:
Sweeney Todd (Guthrie Lab); The Dying Gaul (Hidden Theatre); The Unsinkable Molly Brown (Ten Thousand Things); Once on This Island (Children's Theatre); The Heiress (Park Square Theatre); Marlowe: To Ride in Triumph (Mary Worth); Summer and Smoke (Guthrie Theater).
4. Martin Guerre, Guthrie Theater
With Cats and Miss Saigon, producer Cameron Mackintosh set the bar for bombast. With this tone-deaf turkey, he flopped laboriously over it.
3. The Staggerford Murders, Lyric Theatre
About half the audience at the matinee looked as though they were having fun. The other half looked like they were giving blood.
2. Jolson: A Spectacular Musical, Ordway Music Theatre
Even by the standards of the modern bio-epic musical, this ungainly traveler made for one decidedly unspectacular evening.
1. Furthest From the Sun, Children at Play Productions
I'm thinking of a word. Can you guess what it is?