I didn't do a "top ten of 2009" or anything because that's just not my thing. I didn't see as much theatre as I'd have liked to in 2009 (though I read more new plays than I had in a while) and, honestly, most of it was a blur. Very, very few things stuck out, so I didn't really bother.
One thing, though, stuck with me: Princes of Waco by Rob Askins. I saw a workshop of it last spring and was just blown away by it. Since folks are always asking about work you like or champion or whatnot, and since it's in production right now, I figured I'd use my little bully pulpit and do some testifying.
In the thread above at Isaac's place, he asked me what I liked about Rob's work. I saw the full production yesterday and thought, "What is it that I like so much about this play?" First of all, it's funny as hell. Rob's got a keen ear for dialogue and turn of phrase. The play is set in Waco, Texas and, even though I've never been there, I feel like I have a little bit. It doesn't feel like a play written with any distance from its characters or material; his writing, whether it's a line of noir-ish tough guy talk or a aria of heartbreak and desperation, is immediate and present and painfully honest. The story is simple and straightforward, but, surprisingly, doesn't reach for "mythic" or "iconic." It just is. Given the semi-southern gothic of the setting (it mostly takes place in a seedy bar), it could easily over-reach to make more of itself. It doesn't. And I like that.
Plus the production itself is top notch. This company of actors has worked on this play, fairly intensely over the last year, year and a half and it shows. It's breathtaking to see parts that fit so well, actors rise to the challenge of good writing and then take the writing to a higher place. Rob's still a young writer and there are certainly some flaws and whatnot. But there's something about this play that I simply love and want to hug and hold. And will certainly go and see again.
Not to mention, E.S.T. throws a hell of a dance party. Seriously, folks. Great music, great dancers, a good time is had by all. As a sort of promotional gimmick, they'll be throwing dance parties after every Saturday evening performance. Since the show's at 7 p.m., you can see the show, get your groove on and still make it home before the end of SNL. Not bad for a Saturday night.
And, yeah, yadda, yadda, full disclosure, blah blah blah, I'm a member of the theatre and an alum of Youngblood, which developed the piece and is presenting it under EST's umbrella, but it's not like I'm a producer or directly involved. I just really like this play. And I think you should see it.