Theater year in review, part one: Plenty of great shows from 2013

Herocycle was one of the year's best shows.
Herocycle was one of the year's best shows.
Photo by Linda Passon-Mcnally
As I took in close to 140 shows this year, there were plenty more than the 10 best shows I highlighted in this week's paper. Today, I'm going to look back at a number of other high-quality productions. Tomorrow will be given over to top touring shows, a few side observations, and the dreaded "Worst of 2013" list.

First up are a number of shows that just missed getting on the top 10 list. Think of these as tied for 11th.

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How do you bring Evel Knievel to the stage? By presenting the famed daredevil's jumps via aerial artists and a toy stunt cycle, of course. All the while, this expanded version of the Minnesota Fringe Festival hit delved deep into the psyche of a man who risked his life for fun and profit.

The Lower Depths Nimbus Theater

The Russian underclass isn't far from America's, as this engaging and penetrating adaptation of Maxim Gorky's (set in the Great Depression) epic play attests. A fine cast, strong direction and a beautifully detailed set complemented the journey.

Clybourne Park Guthrie Theater

The second act of Bruce Norris's meditation on A Raisin in the Sun tried and failed in its examination of modern-day race relations, but the first act's look back at a heartbreaking moment in the home's history left an indelible stamp, as did Bill McCallum's performance as a heartbroken father.

Good People Park Square Theatre

The American class war came to a head in this stinging comedy, built mainly on terrific performances by James Denton and Virginia Burke. The two play former high-school sweethearts whose lives have taken them to different corners of society, but showed the hard links that still existed.

Steerage Song Theatre Latte Da

It was a relatively quiet year from Latte Da, but this fall entry brought out the best from the often-innovative company. The songs and stories of generations of American immigrants played out onstage, while the message -- about how almost all of us are descended from immigrants -- was understated but well told.

The rest of these are presented in no particular order:

Cinderella Children's Theatre Company

Cross-dressing and outrageous pop references were part of this panto version of the classic tale, but it was Traci Allen's performance as the title character that carried the day.

Hear No Evil RawRedMeat at the Twin Cities Horror Fest II

An absolutely frightening hour that showcased how scary live theater can be.

Venus in Fur at the Jungle.
Venus in Fur at the Jungle.
Photo by Drew Tampe
Venus in Fur, Driving Miss Daisy, and Fool for Love, the Jungle Theater

It was a fine year for this Lyn-Lake institution, and the shows above showcase its strengths: a new work, a theater chestnut that is better than its reputation, and a revival of an early hit.

Cul-de-Sac Loudmouth Collective

Wade A. Vaughn brought a full corner of a subdivision to life in this compelling and captivating production of Daniel MacIvor's play.

A Strange and Separate People Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company

A heartfelt and heartbreaking look at the confusion wrought on two gay men who are also Orthodox Jews, and the pain felt by the woman caught in the middle.

Fiddler on the Roof Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

Chanhassen has the occasional misstep, but there's no mistaking the care and quality in this revival, which molds the familiar play into the theater's unique setting. There's no roof here (or a house, for that matter), but the heart of the original play and the bright, compelling score are intact.

The Big Lowdown Live Action Set and Bedlam Theatre

The streets of Lowertown teemed with performance art in late August, as the secrets of St. Paul's hot neighborhood -- true and illusionary -- were explored in a string of dances, movements, music, and other theatrical delights.

The Seven Ten Thousand Things

Hip-hop and theater haven't always mixed well, but this adaptation of Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes merged the two in a kinetic, driving, and unforgettable evening.

Tomorrow: News, touring shows, and the year's worst productions.

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