The Best of 2016 in Theater, Dance, Books, and Film | The Year in Arts | Indy Week

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The Best of 2016 in Theater, Dance, Books, and Film


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By Byron Woods

All My Sons (Theatre Raleigh at Kennedy Theatre, Raleigh) A top-flight ensemble led by Julie Fishell, Mitch Poulos, Charlie Brady, and Meagan Mackenzie Chieppor explored the secrets and lies of a mid-century American family frozen by wartime grief.

Cloud 9 (Tiny Engine Theatre at Common Ground Theatre, Durham) A gutsy ensemble in Victorian drag took on Caryl Churchill's farcical roundelay of gender roles and noblesse oblige, from the British empire a century ago to today.

Doubt (Temple Theatre, Sanford) Actors Lynda Clark and Gus Allen went ten rounds in a psychological war of nerves in a play where a priest's behavior with a young boy comes under question.

  • Photo by Curtis Brown Photography
  • David Henderson in Hamlet

Hamlet (Honest Pint Theatre at William Peace University, Raleigh) This rare, audacious staging of Shakespeare's complete text occasionally flirted with disaster in theatrical deconstructions, but it delivered thought-provoking performances from accomplished actors and a nuanced vision of a dysfunctional Denmark.

Jacuzzi (Ward Theatre Company at Ward Theatre, Durham) In her North Carolina debut, director Wendy Ward gave proof of concept for the techniques of acting teacher Sanford Meisner with a taut psychological thriller set in a remote Rocky Mountains cabin.

Lungs (Sonorous Road Productions at Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh) Director Tony Lea, in his best work to date, led Michelle Murray Wells and Jonathan King through the dramatic twists of a young millennial couple destined to overthink everything about their relationship.

"Master Harold"...and the boys (Mortall Coile Theatre Company at Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh) Gil Faison's career-defining performance and newcomer Ben Pluska's strong work anchored Athol Fugard's memoir of racial dialogue in apartheid-era South Africa.

Mothers and Sons (Raleigh Little Theatre at Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, Raleigh) With actors Brian Westbrook and Christopher Maxwell, stage veteran Rebecca Johnston probed the legacy of AIDS in playwright Terrence McNally's consideration of what the living owe to one another—and to the dead.

Time Stands Still (South Stream Productions at Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh) Investigative journalism hurts when the subject is yourself. Two war correspondents asked what their relationship was based on besides good sourcing in this emotionally frank drama.

Three Sisters (PlayMakers Repertory Company at Paul Green Theatre, Chapel Hill) The strong production values of Vivienne Benesch's first show as artistic director of PlayMakers let us look in on a bell jar of privilege and useless aristocracy before the Russian revolution.


By Michaela Dwyer

John Jasperse Projects: Remains (American Dance Festival at Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham) Downtown New York dance stalwart John Jasperse's impeccable movers tripleted in sequined dresses and assumed hedonistic poses in a haunting meditation on artistic legacy.

Lil Buck: A Jookin' Jam Session (Carolina Performing Arts at Memorial Hall, Chapel Hill) Lil Buck interweaved the jagged fluidity of Memphis jookin' with borderless music from members of the Silk Road Ensemble in spring's most spectacular show.

  • Photo by Daniel Jackson
  • Lil Buck

Tommy Noonan: John (Durham Independent Dance Artists and Culture Mill at Living Arts Collective, Durham) Noonan, dressed in garish red and drenched in sweat, played hype man, politician, and Saturday Night Fever's Tony Manero in a pre-election doozy of a solo that took swings at masculinity and ambition. Feature Presentation (DIDA at The Trotter Building, Durham) In this relentlessly energetic dance theater piece, Anna Barker and Leah Wilks teased out their real and fictive selves to interrogate what audiences and arts patrons expect of dancers—and vice versa.

Trisha Brown Dance Company: In Plain Site (Duke Performances at Duke Gardens, Durham) The legendary postmodern choreographer's troupe led us through a pastoral re-setting of her repertoire in what felt like a private tour of the gardens.

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