It’s obvious but it bears repeating: theater is special because it’s live. A play may run for years but the version seen on a specific night is only for that audience. There are nuances in every performance that will happen only that one time, a singular pearl to be treasured.
So when I thought about writing a best of 2011 list, I kept thinking more about my favorite moments of the year and not the “best” overall productions. To be fair, a list of my favorite plays and musicals of the year wouldn’t look all that different from this list. I’d drop two or three that were only great in fleeting moments (I’ll let you guess which ones) and replace them with the more cohesive pleasures of Other Desert Cities, Blood and Gifts, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Arena/Steppenwolf) or The Divine Sister.
Note that this list is based on shows that I saw in 2011 (though some may have premiered earlier) and the descriptions include SPOILERS; so consider yourself warned. Without further ado, my favorite theatrical moments of 2011 were: