The ten best theater productions in New York in 2021

The return of live theater to New York this year, both on Broadway and Off, has been a relief and a challenge for audiences and performers. As the theater world adjusts to new COVID-era theater protocols — and prepares for the possibility of more potential crises to come — it’s a pleasure to remember how many great shows have come to the stage. over the past few months. There were disappointments, sure, and even a real camp party, but plenty to celebrate along the way. Here are my picks for the best theater I’ve seen in 2021.

1. Dana H. (Lyceum Theatre, closed November 28)
In this riveting journey to hell and back, playwright Lucas Hnath stages his mother’s account of her abduction by a violent criminal in her own words, lip-synched by the breathtaking Deirdre O’Connell. No one who has seen it will forget it.

Dana H | Photo: Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

2. Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (Signature Theatre, closed November 21)
Taibi Magar’s revival of Anna Deavere Smith’s 1994 documentary play was a work of brilliantly sustained deep focus, examining the Rodney King era through a wide lens but sharp in detail.

3. Society (Bernard B. Jacobs Theater, outdoor)
Marianne Elliott’s cheerfully ambivalent and ambivalent revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s 1970 musical gives this retro Broadway cocktail a new lease of life and spin, and reminds us just how intoxicating Sondheim’s score can be.

4. Kimberly Akimbo (Atlantic Theater Company, until January 15)
Victoria Clark plays a teenager trapped in an aging body in the charming and idiosyncratic new musical from David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori. Mortality is in every beat of this show, but less like a clock than a pulse.

5. mind problem (American Airlines Theater, until January 9)
The luminous LaChanze plays a black actress navigating the world of liberal theater in the exemplary Broadway debut of Alice Childress’ incisive 1955 play. It’s as if an old curtain has been lifted from a mirror.

Trouble in the mind | Photography: Courtesy of Joan Marcus

6. Caroline or Change (Studio 54, until January 9)
Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s moving, melodious and transformative musical about 1963 housekeeper Louisiana was ahead of its time in 2003, but times have changed. The formidable Sharon D Clarke stars in the first Broadway revival of this masterpiece.

seven. while you were partying (Soho Rep, closed November 16)
In the short, snappy shock of a play by Julia Mounsey and Peter Mills Weiss – an unsettling and chilling exploration of rage – Brian Fiddyment gave a performance whose sustained intensity was both astonishing and downright frightening.

8. Clyde’s (Helen Hayes Theatre, until January 16)
From disparate ingredients – slices of post-prison life, a dash of romantic comedy, a battle between the forces of good and evil – Lynn Nottage and director Kate Whoriskey have assembled a tasty sandwich of food and flavor.

9. The Lehman Trilogy (Nederlander Theatre, but on January 2)
The exceptional Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Adrian Lester star in Stefano Massini’s uplifting epic about the rise and fall of Lehman Brothers and the production of Sam Mendes is an embarrassment of riches.

ten. The big ones (secret Brooklyn location, closed November 1)
Nightdrive’s suspenseful, immersive show about summer camp counselors facing an encroaching crisis was staged around a campfire in Brooklyn for a few viewers at a time. Please can we have more?

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