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Women roared onstage in 2017

Journal Correspondent

Bobbie Steinbach in “Golda’s Balcony’’ at the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown. Photo by Andrew Brilliant

DECEMBER 28, 2017 – Call 2017 a banner year for women and diversity at area theaters. On small and large stages alike, rich and well-acted productions ranged from a revived solo work about Golda Meir, to an all-women ‘’Julius Caesar,’’ to a moving look at the developing relationship of a closeted gay Jewish aid worker and an African -American businessman.

The following – in alphabetical order – are my choices for the best offerings this year:

Small Stage

• “Billy Elliot the Musical” (Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston) – A strong multicultural cast brought soaring expression to this Tony Award celebration of solidarity and the inner electricity of a boy born to dance.

• “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” (SpeakEasy Stage Company at Calderwood Pavilion, Boston) – Gifted artistic director Paul Daigneault made this Hub edition actually more satisfying than the national tour of the Tony-winning look at the challenges confronting an autistic teen boy.

• “Days of Atonement” (Israeli Stage at Calderwood, Boston) – Four very different sisters seek redemption and respect during a tense holiday reunion in Hanna Azoulay-Hasfari’s poignant drama, sensitively staged by company artistic director Guy Ben-Aharon.

• “Edward II” (Actors’ Shakespeare Project at Charles­town Working Theater) – Maurice Emmanuel Parent, one of Boston’s best actors, was majestic as the title 14th century monarch in Christopher Marlowe’s provocative classic.

• “Faceless” (Zeitgeist Stage Company at Boston Center for the Arts) – Muslim and Jewish lawyers tested their own beliefs and the motivation of a radicalized young woman in Selina Fillinger’s stereotype-free play.

“Gabriel” at the Greater Boston Stage Company. Photo courtesy GBSC

• “Gabriel” (Greater Boston Stage Company, formerly the Stoneham Theatre) – The late Thomas Derrah displayed his great gifts in the role of a Nazi officer in this gripping World War II drama.

• “Julius Caesar” (Actors’ Shakespeare Project at Studio 210) – Bobbie Steinbach and Marya Lowry headed up the stellar all-female cast of director Bryn Boice’s sharp revival, with Marianna Bassham definitive as Marc Anthony.

•  “She Loves Me” (Greater Boston Stage Company) – Director/choreographer extraordinaire Ilyse Robbins clearly paid homage to Jewish collaborators Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick of  “Fiddler on the Roof” fame with hora and kazatzke dances in this sweet revival.

• “The Little Dog Laughed” (Take Your Pick Productions at Calderwood) – Cassandra Lovering’s taut revival of Douglas Carter Bean’s savvy look at fame, art, and personal integrity proved a remarkable company debut.

• “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (Lyric Stage Company of Boston) – Steve Barkhimer and especially Paula Plum captured the fiery vision of Edward Albee’s masterwork.

Large Stage

• “Bullets over Broadway” (Ogunquit Playhouse) – Crime and the theater shared a striking relationship complete with an inspired gangster tap ensemble.

•  “Death of a Salesman” (Trinity Repertory Theatre, Providence) – Human dignity cried out for immediate attention in this timely revival.

Samuel H. Levine and McKinley Belcher III in the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of “A Guide for the Homesick.’’ Photo by T. Charles Erickson

• “A Guide for the Homesick” (Huntington Theatre Company, Boston) – Writer Ken Urban’s moving advice about love and caring proved the best new play of 2017.

• “Merrily We Roll Along” (Huntington) – Maria Friedman gave lesser Sondheim a revival worthy of his best work.

• “Ragtime” (Ogunquit) – With the fate of Dreamers uncertain, this celebration of the American immigrant experience resonated in a Broadway-caliber revival with a standout performance by Josh Young as Jewish filmmaker Tateh.

• “Silent Sky” (Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Lowell) – The accomplishments of Henrietta Leavitt and her fellow women colleagues soared in this radiant staging.

• “The Royale” (Merrimack) – Thomas Silcott scored a knockout as the conflicted boxer in a championship drama about pain, prejudice, and the price of personal victory.

• “Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women” (American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge) – Paul Lucas’ insightful new look at transgender women was a revelation.

• “Young Frankenstein” (North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly) – Brian Padgett’s song and dance as the Monster in “Puttin’ on the Ritz’’ would make Mel Brooks proud.

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