Seat Filler: Best NYC Theater of 2009
BY Brandon Voss
December 30 2009 5:55 PM ET
7. Lizzie Borden
Part drawing-room period drama and part Spring Awakening–inspired rock concert with gratuitous handheld microphones, this bloody good musical at the Living Theatre balanced a sharp camp edge with seriously killer songs. Tim Maner, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, and Alan Stevens Hewitt’s low-budget yet high-quality show not only assumed the notorious spinster’s ax-swinging guilt on that fateful 1892 summer day but also suggested that Alice Russell — the neighbor whom Lizzie “always received upstairs,” according to her murder trial testimony — was her lesbian lover! As Liz, Jenny Fellner led the fearless female cast of four, which included Carrie Cimma as Bridget, the butch Irish maid.
6. The Story of My Life
The story is that the first new Broadway musical of 2009 unjustly closed after only five regular performances at the Booth Theatre. Written by life partners Neil Bartram and Brian Hill, this tuneful, unapologetically sentimental two-hander starred the winning Will Chase as Thomas, a successful writer who returns home to deliver the eulogy for Alvin, his estranged friend of 30 years. Out actor Malcolm Gets played the doting, gentle Alvin, who may or may not have been romantically attracted to Thomas. “These two guys are soul mates,” Bartram told Advocate.com. Added Hill, “We’ve specifically written a piece that’s full of ambiguity, so it’s up to the audience to decide.” And I decided that, yep, Alvin’s gay.
5. The Power of Two
Though technically more of a cabaret act than a musical, this summer show at Feinstein’s at the Regency was powered by two gay, golden-throated theatrical forces: Broadway stud Cheyenne Jackson and Michael Feinstein, celebrated interpreter of the Great American Songbook. According to Jackson, the evening’s not-so-subtle queer subtext (the act, which took its title from an Indigo Girls song, featured gay anthems “The Time Has Come” and The King and I’s “We Kiss in a Shadow”) scared away some Upper East Side regulars. “I didn’t expect the show to be as political as it was,” he told Advocate.com. A studio recording, minus between-song banter, was released in November.
4. The Brother/Sister Plays
Featured in The Advocate’s 2009 “Forty Under 40” issue, Wig Out! playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney made a triumphant return with this trilogy of connected yet stand-alone plays performed in rep at the Public Theater. Part 2 included The Brothers Size and Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet, which focused on sexual identity and featured many of the same characters in a rural Louisiana town. In Brothers a man reconnected with the pal he seduced in prison. In Marcus that same man’s son explored his own “sweet” tendencies with ghetto-fab girlfriends and a sketchy down-low thug. A skilled storyteller, McCraney added spoken-word sass by making his electric ensemble voice its own stage directions.