Highlights of Tampa Bay’s performing arts scene this year ranged from solo shows to intense dramas to musicals. They all brought realness to the stage, sometimes in fanciful dimensions. And they surpassed expectations, in so doing creating the most delightful experience for a theatergoer — that of being surprised.
Here’s my top 10 list for local professional theater in 2017.
10 Grounded (Tampa Repertory Theatre)
Emilia Sargent’s one-woman show about a pilot fighting PTSD burned, laserlike, into memory.
9 Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (American Stage, St. Petersburg)
The whole was greater than the sum of the parts in this 10th play of the August Wilson "century cycle" for American Stage, making American Stage only the 12th theater in the world to have completed all 10.
8 Marie Antoinette (Freefall Theatre, St. Petersburg)
The costumes and lighting alone were two cuts above. This understated show about conspicuous wealth and cluelessness was simultaneously rich, tacky and marvelous.
7 The Invisible Hand (American Stage)
In a climate of terrorism, a band of opportunists kidnap an American finance expert, who teaches them to play the stock market. Grimly funny rendering of a play by Ayad Akhtar.
6 Fun Home (David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa)
Alison Bechdel’s coming-of-age (and coming out) musical makes small cruelties seem normal without losing humanity.
5 The Aliens (Stageworks Theatre, Tampa)
Slackers ponder things, endure long silences and die unexpectedly in this perfectly tuned Annie Baker play.
4 Finding Neverland (Straz)
We try not to pay attention to hype, only to be disappointed when a show doesn’t measure up. This charming story about creativity had none and benefitted.
3 Gloucester Blue (Jobsite Theater, Tampa)
Another reason to be angry at playwright Israel Horovitz, whose alleged worst actions according to nine women have deprived us of his best for the foreseeable future.
2 Squeeze My Cans (solo, performed at Stageworks)
Cathy Schenkelberg’s one-woman show about her two decades in Scientology, which she performed at Stageworks, should move anyone with a heart and an unchained mind.
1 Disgraced (Heather Theatre, Tampa)
The tiny theater served up a taut and finely acted psychological thriller (a Pulitzer winner by Ayad Akhtar) disguised as a dinner party.
Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.