Terry Teachout writes for The Wall Street Journal. His theater criticism is pragmatic and thoughtful, always worth reading. Earlier this month he wrote about “America’s Favorite Plays,” based on facts from American Theatre magazine. He listed the plays most often produced in the United States between 2000 and 2010.
Cincinnati audiences are lucky — we’re batting a thousand thanks to the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (ETC). The Playhouse staged eight of the 11 on Teachout’s list (actually nine if you count an intern production of Moisés Kaufman’s The Laramie Project). ETC presented three, several of which were a show’s first staging after its initial run.
Heading the list is David Auburn’s Proof, staged regionally 54 times since its New York debut in 2000. The Playhouse presented the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for drama winner early in 2003. Next is John Patrick Shanley’s 2005 Pulitzer winner, Doubt (48 productions since 2005); it was at the Playhouse in March 2008 (pictured).
Yasmina Reza’s Art is the oldest non-classic on Teachout’s list, having originated in French in 1994.
It had its London premiere in 1996, then came to Broadway in 1998. Its 45 productions earned third place. The Playhouse offered the argument between three friends about a blank canvas in spring 2001.
Most Playhouse productions of these popular shows were on the Marx mainstage. Just two, Michael Healey’s The Drawer Boy (winter 2004) and Margaret Edson’s 1999 Pulitzer Prize winner Wit (winter 2000), were offered in the smaller Shelterhouse. Healey’s play is fourth with 36 productions nationwide, while Edson’s is sixth with 29.
Two productions at Ensemble Theatre, which calls itself a “premiere theater” and presents new works, are in the same range. In fifth place is David Lindsay-Abaire’s wrenching Rabbit Hole (33 productions) and in seventh place is Doug Wright’s memorable one-man show, I Am My Own Wife (26), which won a Pulitzer and a Tony in 2004. ETC offered Rabbit Hole as its season opener in September 2007, while Wife happened in March 2005, the very first staging of the show after winning the 2007 Pulitzer. ETC’s production was subsequently restaged in several other cities with actor Todd Almond.
Tied with Wife (26) is Regina Taylor’s Crowns, a show about African-American women and their hats, seen at the Playhouse in spring 2005. Close behind in the 9th slot is Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel (25), which ETC offered as its opening production in September 2005. Tied for 10th (23 productions) are Tennessee Williams’ 1944 classic, The Glass Menagerie, and Kaufman’s The Laramie Project. The Playhouse offered Menagerie in September 1999.
Teachout comments that “American theatergoers are not know-nothing Neanderthals but intelligent people who are prepared to spend time and money grappling with straight plays that are artful, thoughtful and well written.” He also observes that the majority of the plays require only four actors, an economic reality that dictates decisions at many theaters today.
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