The 2012 Bitter Lemons’ Best of Los Angeles Theater

Figured I’d toss these out now since I’m probably not going to see anything else before the year is done, at least nothing that’s going to make this list. Let’s face it, folks, everything that’s opening right now is basically a variation on A Christmas Carol, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and all of their bastard children, ostracized siblings and deadbeat parents.

These are simply my faves, k? Later we will have the best rated according to our LemonMeter.

So we’re clear, these, subjective, later, objective? Got it?

I saw maybe 75 shows all told in 2012. And that’s out of probably 700 to 800 shows produced in 2012. A mere pittance, k? I admit it! Steven Stanley is coughing up his oatmeal right now for criminy’s sake, “Seventy-five? Did he say seventy-five? I crap that many shows in a week!” There were many shows that I wanted to see but couldn’t that probably would have made it to this list, but didn’t, capiche? So don’t get your knickers in an uproar if you didn’t make the grade! I’m only one man!

Gasp.

If there is one mystical element binding all these shows together I guess it would have to be that these were the productions that moved me the most this year, the ones that lingered. Whether emotionally or cerebrally, whether through laughter or tears or provocation, these are the ones that stayed with me long after the stage lights faded. And still do.

Okay, disclaimer finished, here they are, my top ten of 2012, one man’s opinion. I’ve also added some Honorable Mentions at the bottom just because that’s what we’re supposed to do. The “Best Of ” are listed in descending order, favorite first and they are a compilation of both premieres and revivals. I can’t tell the difference. Okay. Wait for it…drum roll…and….

THE 2012 BITTER LEMONS’ BEST OF LOS ANGELES THEATER

In the Red and Brown Water: Just pure theatrical heaven from top to bottom, my pick to win every award that it can possibly be nominated for; lead Diarra Kilpatrick is otherworldly. Still playing. Go see it. Now.

Good People: A masterpiece of subtlety and moral complexity, executed to near perfection at the Geffen.

Gatz: One of those theatrical events that I will simply never forget. A true original. Thank you REDCAT. Absolutely astounding.

Clybourne Park: One of the funniest and most provocative plays I’ve ever seen. Wasn’t a fan of the needlessly sentimental ending, but everything that went before easily swept that quibble under the rug.

Death of a Salesgirl: An all-star homegrown creative team converged to bring pure magic and surprising pathos to the Bootleg Theater. Should have run longer.

Blood of Macbeth: What it sacrificed in moral complexity it more than made up for in visceral impact, one of the funniest versions of the Scottish Play I think I’ll ever see. That’s right, I said “funny”.

Fairy Tale Theatre: 18 and Over: Just straight up hilarious. I was amazed it didn’t move to another venue after it’s rather short run. Coughed up both lungs during this one.

Waiting for Godot: An amazing and in many ways definitive version of this classic; McGovern inhabited his role like I’ve never seen and local Hugo Armstrong gave us a Lucky that few will forget.

Figure 8: I found this mosaic of plays – loosely tied together by the finest of through lines – to be oddly moving and superbly performed at Theatre of NOTE.

Justin Love: Though this original musical still has room to improve I found it extremely moving and just a heck of a lot of fun.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Spidey Project, Twilight Zone Unscripted, Silence! the Musical, Re-Animator, the Musical, Hearts Like Fists, Red Bastard, Button Wagon, Doomsday Cabaret, Speed Merchant of Venice, Lost Moon Radio, The New Electric Ballroom, Eternal Thou, The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King, The Color Purple, Old Wicked Songs.

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Colin Mitchell About the Author: COLIN MITCHELL: Actor/Writer/Director/Producer/Father, award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Broadway veteran, Marvel comics scribe, Van Morrison disciple, Zen-Catholic, a proud U.S. Army Brat conceived in Scotland and born in Frankfurt, Germany, currently living in Los Angeles and doing his best to piss off as many people as possible.

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  1. Kevin Delin Kevin Delin says:

    A varied list, Colin, which is great thing for this type of year-end accounting.

    Among Steven Stanley’s main theses is that LA is loaded with fantastic theater — and your list of 25(!) — is proof positive of this. How many patrons go to more than 25 shows a year? In other words, most people would agree that it’s possible to see something awesome every trip to the playhouse (regardless of individual tastes because there are simply *that many* shows). Our LA cups runneth over, truly.

    One additional point: Not all current productions are of the Dickens/Santa Claus/Rudolph/Nutcracker (you forgot Nutcracker!) genre. There are at least 2 original pantos presently playing, one I saw and enjoyed (THE SNOW QUEEN at the Freemont in South Pasadena) and one that has been garnering good notices (A SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS at the Pasadena Playhouse). Of course, there is the Troubie show, assuming you can get tickets which is really in a genre unto itself. Lastly, there is CYMBELINE at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica which has generated much excitement (though I haven’t seen it). The point being: there is still plenty of recently opened, original, quality LA theater to see in the last few weeks of 2012 if your holiday shopping is done. Or even if it isn’t.

    We really do have an embarrassment of riches in LA.

    • Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

      Looks like me and Chuck from the LA Times had a little crossover in our Best Of List: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-ca-cm-year-end-mcnulty-essay-20121216,0,5265670.story

      I didn’t see Krapp or Our Town but from what I heard from reliable sources they probably would have made my list as well.

      Of course Chuck had to include a couple of New York productions in his list, why, I’m not sure. Just to prove that he is indeed a critic to be reckoned with on the National stage? I dunno. Wish he would have simply split it into two lists, Los Angeles and NYC so a few more of our local productions could have been highlighted.

      I’ll put that on my Christmas list this year I guess…

  2. Steven Stanley says:

    Only saw 2 of your Top 10.

  3. Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

    You gotta get out more, Steven.

  4. Mickey says:

    A new venue?

    FX to adapt Feldman’s ‘Fairy Tale’
    Billy Crystal attached to produce skein based on comedic stage show
    By AJ MARECHAL

    FX is developing a smallscreen adaptation of J. Michael Feldman’s comedic stage show “Fairy Tale Theater: 18 and Over,” with Billy Crystal attached to exec produce.
    The stage show features puppets in satirical, twisted fables that center on contemporary topics like sex, relationships and finances. Feldman wrote and performed in the Los Angeles stage show.

    Feldman will pen the FX laffer and exec produce alongside Crystal. He was formerly a writer on MTV’s “The Inbetweeners,” which was cancelled earlier this week.

    Feldman is repped by UTA.

    http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118062863

    • Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

      Well whaddaya know? Thanks for the info, Mickey. Seems like a natural transition and Crystal sounds like a perfect fit.

      Venue? We don’t need no stinkin’ venues!

  5. Alex Parker says:

    I’m not sure why Mr. McNulty needs to see NY shows on the LA Times’ dime, at all. We get the NY Times and Post here, no problem (plus there is that series of tubes that’s all the rage), for those that wish to read NY theatre reviews. It’d be nice to use his travel cash to fund more LA Times’ critics, and hear about more local shows in our city’s most widely read publication.

    • Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

      I tend to agree, Alex. All I can surmise is that Chuck and the Times want to keep his status as a “National Theater Critic” alive and healthy.

  6. Kevin Delin Kevin Delin says:

    It’s called the Stockholm Syndrome.