WW’s List of Portland’s Top 10 Plays of 2019

One of our theater critics saw 37 plays during the last 12 months. Here are the highlights.

(David Kinder)

A legendary drag queen, an embattled real estate agent, and a son who kills his father were the subjects of some of the finest plays produced in Portland during 2019—and none of them made my top 10 list. I saw 37 plays during the past 12 months, and while there was the occasional stinker, the majority were transcendent or at least transportive. That meant drafting a top 10 list was tough, and more than a few favorites were relegated to honorable mention.

Which is a lovely problem to have. The performers and craftspeople in the Portland theater scene showed incredible ambition and reached imaginative highs this year—particularly by representing the experiences of people from places as different as Missouri, Ireland, Thailand and the Dominican Republic.

Since the following plays have completed their runs, think of this list not as a recommendation, but a reminder that the world of theater in Portland remains thrillingly multifaceted. Then start looking ahead. 2020 awaits.

1. How I Learned to Drive

Twilight Theater Company

Paula Vogel wrote this tale of a Maryland teen who is sexually abused by her uncle. Twilight's rendition was a haunting duet between its fearless stars (Adria Malcolm and Michael J. Teufel) and a reminder that the play's themes—shame, gaslighting, rebirth—reach far beyond the story of one predator and one survivor.

2. From the Ruby Lounge

Theatre Berk

This production had an astonishing rush of colors, movements and emotions that brilliantly blurred the line between the theater and the strip club.

3. Until the Flood

Portland Center Stage at the Armory

Playing characters both young and old, black and white, performer and playwright Dael Orlandersmith took us on a revelatory journey through the aftermath of Michael Brown's murder.

4. The Delays

Theatre Vertigo

Set in a single airport on three separate New Year's Eves, Sara Jean Accuardi's masterpiece journeys backward through time and deep into the souls of its flawed and beautiful characters.

5. How to Keep an Alien

Corrib Theatre

The title may make it sound like a Martian sitcom, but Sonya Kelly's autobiographical play is a wonderfully cheeky and sentimental romance between two humans.

6. Melancholy Play

Third Rail Repertory Theatre

An uproarious "chamber musical" that featured a magnificent cast of brooders, including Nick Ferrucci as a man so obsessed with his girlfriend's tears he collects them in a vial.

7. The Brothers Paranormal

CoHo Productions/Media Rites' Theatre Diaspora

A Thai American ghost hunter comes to the aid of an African American couple with a supernatural problem in this touching (and terrifying) exploration of familial bonds and cultural heritage.

8. The Baltimore Waltz

Profile Theatre

A European vacation, a noirish conspiracy and a Vienna urologist figure into Paula Vogel's zany, rueful comedy, which is both a riot and a heart-shattering tribute to her brother, who died of AIDS.

9.  La Ruta

Artists Repertory Theatre

This production of Isaac Gomez's unsparing chronicle of the mass murders and disappearances of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, was almost unbearable to watch—and impossible to look away from.

10.  Dream|Logic

Hand2Mouth Theatre

Part scavenger hunt, part art installation and part food fight, this all-ages show was a weird wonder. It was also one of the sweetest and funniest plays of 2019.

Honorable mention:

Amor Añejo

Milagro Theatre

Burn This

Asylum Theatre

Darcelle: That's No Lady

Triangle Productions

Dealing With Clair

Public Citizen Theatre

Into the Woods

Broadway Rose Theatre

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