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The Best of 2014: The Top 10 Shows in Twin Cities Theater

From <i>Colossal</i>. Above: Torsten Johnson; Below: (left to right) Mathias Becker, Ryan Colbert, Ian Zahren, Casey Hoeksta

From Colossal. Above: Torsten Johnson; Below: (left to right) Mathias Becker, Ryan Colbert, Ian Zahren, Casey Hoeksta

I saw close to 150 shows this year. The 10 that thrilled me the most in 2014:

10. Detroit, The Jungle Theater

Director Joel Sass dissected the corpse of the American middle class in this savage and very funny piece where two neighboring couples learn that the other side really isn't living the good life either.

9. The Ballad of Emmett Till, Penumbra Theatre

This play's currency only grew stronger, as the story of a black teenager murdered in 1955 could have been dragged from today's headlines. It was a moving tribute to an ordinary youth whose life was cut off before it had a chance to start.

8. The Whale, Walking Shadow Theatre Company

Samuel D. Hunter's play is about a 600-pound recluse's final attempts to reconnect with his family. But it was Zach Curtis's performance that carried the day. There wasn't a bum note in the entire performance.

7. Ghost Sonata, Nimbus Theatre

August Strindberg met David Lynch in this freshly translated work that centered on a supper more disturbing than the one in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's a messy, satiric piece full of pointed observations and extreme characters.

6. Little Shop of Horrors, 7th House Theater

Working with a budget that likely wouldn't keep the lights on for a day at the Guthrie Theater, 7th House Theater embraced the B-movie roots of this comedic musical.

5. Stumply Peter, Open Eye Figure Theatre

With a shock of hair and foot-long fingernails, Noah Sommers Haas brought out the crazed intensity that hides in most traditional children's stories, while his father's puppets gave "Peter" a perfect place to play.

4. The Music Man, Ten Thousand Things

How do you produce Meredith Wilson's classic with only seven actors? Very well. The small cast turned the play into one big con. So what if the band only had one member? Or that the same quartet of actors played both the men and women? This intimate, charming production made those questions moot.

3. The Threepenny Opera, Frank Theatre

Director Wendy Knox has never shied away from difficult shows. This revisit highlighted the decay and hypocrisy of 19th-century London, and gave Bradley Greenwald a chance to showcase his seedy-but-sharp side as Mack the Knife.

2. Our Town, Theatre Latte Da

Long the bane of high school drama, Thornton Wilder's play offers tremendous rewards to actors willing to dive in to its haunting look at American life. Director Peter Rothstein played up the community side of the show, where a color-blind cast and traditional American music worked together to find those often unexplored corners of the play.

1. Colossal, Mixed Blood Theater

A play that examined violence in football, acceptance of gay athletes, and troubled father-son relationships (a crippled gay athlete turned away from a career in dance) could have turned into an over-earnest mess. Instead, this kinetic work featured performances as intense as any football game and as gentle as a ballet.

Coming up next: More of 2014's theatrical favorites -- and the worst shows of the year.